Coping with the diagnosis of a parent or loved with dementia is difficult to process. You may also be worried about how younger children in the family will be affected.


It is natural to want to protect your children from worrying situations but if you are looking for guidance on whether to tell your children about a family member’s diagnosis or wondering how best to deliver the news, then read on for some words of advice.


Should you tell young children about dementia?


Only you can decide on what is best to tell your child. Depending on their age, how close they are to the family member or how sensitive they are to news like this, will all be factors.


They may have already picked up on the fact that something is wrong with the family member. Children are very perceptive and also good at listening into phone conversations! It may give them peace of mind to know.


If children have noticed that someone’s behaviour is strange, they may blame themselves or think it is because of them. Knowing that they have a disease could help them to understand and not take any out of character behaviour to heart.


We won’t always be able to shelter children, learning how to cope with events can help them learn valuable skills. Children are quite resilient and are often surprisingly able to manage emotions well at a young age.


How to tell your children about dementia…


It is important to adapt your language when speaking to younger children – avoid confusing medical terms and try not to go into too much detail as they won’t be able to process all of the information.


Speak to them in a quiet place, away from the distractions of a video game or TV. Allow them to ask questions and make sure they know they can talk about it if anything is upsetting them.


A way to explain dementia to a young child is that it is an illness of the brain. The brain then has difficulty doing the things it needs to do – for example remembering things, speaking or understanding. Explain that it is not contagious and that the person is not in any pain from their dementia. They may not seem like themselves sometimes, but they are still the same person.  Reassure them that they are getting help from doctors and that they are being cared for.


Your child may want to help – perhaps find some activities they can do together and take them with you to visit if appropriate.


Alzheimer’s UK has developed a website specifically aimed at children and teens to explain the disease in a way they can relate to. There are also numerous pamphlets, books and videos that have been designed for children, links to some of these resources are included at the end of this article.

How are children likely to cope?


Children will cope in different ways when reacting to the news of dementia. Children are often quite fickle and may only be affected if they are in regular, close contact with the family member so that it impacts on their day to day life.


They may feel sad or anxious, as you will do too. Support each other and talk about how you are all feeling.


Young children could feel irritated when they need to repeat themselves or feel angry and rejected if the person does not remember their name or who they are. Reassure them that this is just the disease and that they love them very much.


Children may also feel as though they have suffered a loss – particularly if the relative played an active part in their lives. They may not be able to do the things they used to do any more, like take care of them, go for days out or play games. Comfort the child, talk about the great memories they have and try to keep a family tradition going – even if it is a particular walk they took together, or a card game they enjoyed.


It can be very difficult to deal with the emotional side of a dementia diagnosis and your priority is likely to be the care and wellbeing of your relative.


It is important, however, to make sure that the legal issues are dealt with, for example do they have both Property & Financial Affairs and Health & Welfare LPAs in place?   If they haven’t already done so, contact us today on 01256 844888 to discuss the situation with a specialist lawyer.


If they are not able to make a Lasting Power of Attorney in relation to Property & Financial Affairs, someone would need to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed to act as their Deputy.


Lamb Brooks have the largest private client team in North Hampshire, specialising in elderly and vulnerable client care. Our team are Dementia Friends and are members of STEP (Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners) and Solicitors for the Elderly.


Their gentle, patient yet professional approach is often commented on by clients and their families as they help support them through difficult family times.


If you need legal guidance for a relative with dementia or are concerned about your own legal affairs should something happen to you, then please get in touch with Debbie Duggan on 01256 84488 or email debbie.duggan@lambbrooks.com today.


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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.