When you’re a Sandwich Generation member who’s caring for an elderly grandparent with dementia, your kids may start complaining about the amount of time you’re spending with grandpa or grandma, instead of them. Explaining to your children why their grandparent’s behavior is changing can also be difficult, and you could hear questions like: “Why can’t grandma take me to the park anymore?”, or “Why does grandpa keep forgetting my name? Trying to process those confusing feelings can oftentimes make kids feel sad, frustrated, and even jealous.
As a parent, not addressing your kids’ emotions can lead to negative behaviors like acting out at school, or losing interest in activities. Equipping your children with the positive coping mechanisms they need to continue interacting with an elderly grandparent with dementia is important. What follows are several reliable ways to do so.
Educate Your Children About Dementia
During a Holiday family get together your kids may notice that you’re spending time cutting up grandpa’s food or helping him use the bathroom, instead of focusing on them. Children tend to be more accepting and less anxious when they’re prepared, so sit down with your kids beforehand, and openly and honestly explain in age-appropriate language what’s going on with their grandparent. A good analogy to use with younger children is the “bucket of memories” one, whereby you tell them that grandpa’s mind is like a bucket with a hole in it, and that some of his memories are now “leaking out”.
If you don’t mentally prepare your kids, feeling ignored can lead to jealousy. Make sure that they understand that grandpa needs more care and attention than he used to. Irritability can be common in persons with dementia. Therefore, if dad snaps at the kids let them know later that it’s not their fault, that their grandfather still loves them, and that he sometimes can’t control his actions. Also, instruct your kids gently not to question what grandpa says, no matter how silly it sounds!
Involve Your Kids in the Caregiving
As family trips to grandma or grandpa’s house change due to the progression of their disease, a child can begin to also progressively resent feeling left out. To help overcome those emotions, ask your kids to be more involved with their grandparent’s care. Explain how it will not only benefit their grandma or grandpa, but you as well. Ask the kids what they think their grandparent would enjoy doing during your next visit, choosing from these activities that are safe and beneficial for seniors with dementia:
- Listening to relaxing music
- Watching a favorite movie
- Taking a walk outside
- Coloring or painting pictures
- Looking at old photos
Studies have found that seniors with dementia experience positive feelings after visiting with their grandchildren long after the visit has ended. Encourage your kids to continue the interactions, while explaining how beneficial they are to you, and how much they cheer up grandma or grandpa. And, if during a visit your parent gets agitated or acts irrational, ignoring it afterwards could do more emotional harm than good when it comes to your kids.
Get Your Kids Additional Support
Has your son or daughter been acting out at school, or stopped playing with their friends like they used to? No matter how hard you try to prepare and educate your children about dementia, they may still need some additional support to understand and deal with the emotions they’re feeling inside. Depending upon how close your child is to their elderly grandparent with dementia, they may respond in different ways as their loved one’s condition worsens.
Sometimes, those pent-up feelings can play out negatively through arguing with siblings and classmates, or withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed. If it’s occurring frequently, consider finding your child someone else to speak with, like a school counselor or professional child therapist. It’s also a good idea to inform their teacher(s) about what’s going on.
We Help Seniors and Their Families Deal with Dementia
Caring for an aging parent with dementia can be exhausting, even when involving your own children in their grandparent’s care. When you need a break or live too far away, call First In Care, and we’ll reliably provide the compassionate care that your loved one deserves. While serving as an extended family member in their home, our highly trained and carefully screened caregivers will help ensure that your family member’s safety and wellbeing are top priorities as they continue aging comfortably right where they want to be.
While in your loved one’s home, our experienced aides can also do light housework, personal hygiene, meal preparation, medication reminders, transportation and companionship; all delivered in a flexible package to put your mind at ease. First In Care’s licensed dementia caregivers can also go to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or individual living centers. To learn more about our dementia care for seniors, or other family trusted, home healthcare services in Bradenton and Manatee County, FL, please visit: www.firstincare.com.