Explaining Grandma’s Alzheimer’s

Q. When I was a child, my parents took me to see my grandmother. I was very upset when she didn’t remember me or my sister and when she thought my dad (her son) was my older brother. Now I am faced with the same situation with my own children. My wife would like for us to visit her mom with Alzheimer’s. How can I prepare my children so their experience is better than mine was?

A. When children visit a grandma or grandpa with Alzheimer’s, they may become scared, confused, or upset, as you were. However, as the Alzheimer’s Society describes, honesty is the best route to take to prepare them for what to expect. Consider these tips to make the visit with grandma go as smoothly as possible:

  • Talk with your children ahead of time about any changes they might see in Grandma since the last visit. Reassure them that it’s part of the illness and nothing to do with them.
  • Set a time limit for the visit. Young children get tired;, so do grandparents. Also, if little ones make a lot of noise, or run up and down the halls, it can be too much for grandma.
  • Enjoy  activities with grandma, such as listening to music, playing a game or reading stories.
  • If  children feel uncomfortable or frightened during the visit, they might prefer sitting on a parent’s lap to an activity with grandma.
  • Unless you are certain they can cope with and accept it, don’t leave young children alone or in charge at the visit.
  • Emphasize that simply being with grandma and showing her love and affection is the most important thing that the  child or young person can do.
  • Talk to children after the visit. Ask if they have any questions. Or help them understand why grandma might have become upset or confused during the visit.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a four-part video series to help children learn about Alzheimer’s and to see how others like themselves are dealing with it. These would be ideal to watch with your children before visiting grandma.


For more information, visit the Talking to Kids and Teens section on the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors and individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one, such as your mother-in-law, who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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