Why doesn’t Grandma know who I am?

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with some types of diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia that gradually gets worse as time goes on. It affects a person’s memory, thinking, and behavior.

5.4 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, about 1 in 8 older Americans. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. 

Alzheimer’s Family Services (AFS) strives to provide support to families coping with the disease. As caregivers and family members, AFS understands how the disease can affect a family’s emotional, physical, and financial well-being. Through programs, such as the Hearts & Minds Program, we strive to provide quality care to the entire family as they cope with the losses associated with dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease can be very puzzling or confusing to a child, as often times, the grandparent does not look sick. Early on, the child may notice grandma forgetting words, not remembering loved ones’ names, getting lost, having trouble sleeping, etc. As the disease progresses, a child may see grandma crying for unknown reasons, becoming angry quickly, behave in embarrassing way to the child, and may not even remember knowing who them.

I have had a 16-year-old girl tell me that grandpa thinks she is his daughter and calls her by her mother’s name. I have had a 7-year-old boy tell me that he can not visit his grandmother any more because he makes her too angry when he plays his video games. Children do not understand way their healthy appearing grandparent acts the way they do.

Here is where the Hearts & Minds Program can help!

The Hearts & Minds bag is a toolkit focused on helping children express and work through their feelings of coping with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease and to help parents and caregivers talk to their children about dementia, including any concerns that the caregivers may have as they face caring for their loved one. The resources included in the bag are designed for families to use on their own, in the comfort of their home. Items such as sketch pads, Playdoh, crayons, stuffed animals, and children’s books are included in the toolkit, as well as material for the caregivers/parents to help them cope with the own emotions.

On June 14th, Alzheimer’s Family Services, in collaboration with Covenant Hospice will be holding a children’s event at Painting With a Twist in Pensacola to begin the process of allowing children to express their feeling about this devastating disease. The event is free to children, with registration, that have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease.

To become a part of the Hearts & Minds Program or to learn more about the services and programs offered through Alzheimer’s Family Services, please visit www.alzfamserv.org or www.covenanthospice.org.


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