How to Talk About Dementia With Children

Words to Use When Explaining Dementia to Children of All Ages

Want to help destigmatize Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia? Be frank when talking about dementia to children. Kids can be scared by what they don't know. If nobody explains why Grandma doesn't remember their name or why Uncle Jack does silly things like throw good food in the trash, children are apt to blame themselves or want to avoid these once-beloved figures in their lives. Better to be straightforward.

For younger children, you can say:

  • "Grandma's memory is broken."

  • "Our heads have a tape recorder in them to help us remember, but Uncle Jack's tape recorder doesn't work anymore."

  • "Nobody can be good at everything, and Grandpa isn't good at remembering things."

For older children and young teens, you can say:

  • "Uncle Jack has a disease called Alzheimer's that changes his brain and causes him to forget things and get mixed up, but he's still the same person inside."

  • "Alzheimer's isn't the kind of disease that you can catch. But it makes your personality change, so when you see strange behaviors, that's the disease doing it, not Grandma -- don't take it personally."

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio