Ask Miriam – February 2021

Published On: February 3rd, 2021Categories: Ask Miriam
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Dear Miriam,

I take care of my husband who has had dementia for the last couple of years, and recently he has been getting more confused and frail. I have three grandchildren that I take care of three days a week, so that their mother can work. They are ten, eight, and four, and my question has to do with them. The youngest cries and has tantrums when I pay more attention to my husband than to him. But my husband needs my help now to do almost everything, like going to the bathroom and getting dressed. My eight-year-old grandson gets angry when his grandpa doesn’t remember who he is, and my ten-year-old granddaughter mostly tries to stay away from him. It makes me sad that we can’t be a loving family anymore.

—Sad

Dear Sad,

I’m so glad that you decided to reach out. It can be challenging when you have multiple people to take care of. And when someone has dementia, it affects everyone in the family, including children and grandchildren. In order to reduce the level of stress, let your grandchildren know it is okay to talk about their feelings and concerns with you. It is normal for them to feel afraid, angry, sad, or frustrated. I recommend you answer their questions simply and honestly. Tell them that his behavior – whether it is forgetting who they are or getting impatient with them – is due to a disease that is affecting his brain. Be sure to emphasize that it’s nothing they did, or said, or thought that is causing the disease or making him behave differently.

In order to encourage a positive connection between your husband and your grandchildren, you may want to have them participate together in some structured activities. These could include a simple arts and crafts project, playing or listening to music, or singing songs together. If your husband’s memory for the more-distant past is still intact, you can encourage him to tell the children stories from old pictures of himself and other family members. You may also have the older children read aloud to him from books they enjoy, and the youngest grandchild could do a simple puzzle with him. Watching a family-oriented program on tv that everyone likes is another idea.

Remember that your own needs are important, too. Set aside time each day to relax a little or do something enjoyable while the children and your husband are engaged. You might want to have a cup of tea, read a chapter in a novel, work on a crossword puzzle, or call a friend.

For more ideas on how to help children understand dementia or different ways for caregivers to practice self-care, call our Helpline at 844-435-7259, or go to our website at alzheimersLA.org. If you have questions for Miriam, please write to askmiriam@alzla.org.

Best,
Miriam

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