Talking to Children About Dementia


Talking to Children About Dementia              

By Kristi Beck  

Holidays are a time for reconnecting with loved ones.  For those with Alzheimer’s Disease or other types of dementia, it may be disorienting to be taken out of a familiar setting—especially if they are now living in a care community. Holiday gatherings can look a little different as multiple generations visit the actual community, versus taking a loved one home for the holiday.

One missed opportunity that I have seen over the years is not preparing children before they visit a grandparent or older adult living with dementia.  Parents might think if you don’t discuss this painful disease, you’re protecting your children or that certain behavior can be dismissed as “old age” or forgetfulness.  Parents may forget that children will be observing other residents, in addition to the one they are visiting, and those residents will be drawn to their joy and energy.

Remember that children are very insightful and curious. They will ask questions and worry when a grandparent’s behavior changes or when he or she seems absent from their lives.  Children might feel nervous around the older adult, especially if he or she is having trouble remembering names or can no longer take care of him or herself the way they once did.

Some suggestions for preparing a child for a visit:

  • Be honest and explain the disease. Let them know that Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia does not affect kids and it mostly happens to people over 65 years old. Scientists have discovered medicines that seem to slow the disease down and there’s hope that someday there will be a cure.  Age-appropriate information, explaining the disease can be found on such sites as
  • Encourage children to “go with the flow.” The older adult or grandparent may have an altered sense of reality and arguing or trying to correct him or her might lead to more confusion or agitation.  For example, “Grandma sometimes calls me mother.”  Explain to children it’s an opportunity to pretend or use their imaginations, but not to argue.
  • Prepare ahead of time for “taboo” topics. If you are aware of a particular item of discussion that will elicit emotions, explain it before the visit.   “Aunt May gets sad when we talk about her dog Taffy who lives with us.”     “Grandpop wasn’t safe driving, so we told him his car is getting fixed at the shop, so he isn’t worried every day.”

Consider meeting in the lobby area or reserving a private dining area for your holiday visit.  The Village at Sydney Creek has plenty of space for meeting one-on-one with a resident, including our lobby with fireplace, family room, Activity Room, conference room or one of our lush garden spaces.

Contact Sydney Creek at 805-543-2350 if you are interested in having a staff member visit your child’s schools or club to explain more about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Suggested Resources:

“About my Grandfather, About My Grandmother” an online video produced by the Alzheimer’s Association

“Really and Truly,” by Emilie Rivard

“Grandma and Me: A Kid’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” by Mary Ann Drummond and Beatrice Tauber Prior

On a lighter note: “Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear In The Refrigerator?” Max Wallack, Carolyn Given

Get in Touch

Meet with one of our Community Relations Coordinators, request more information or schedule a tour.

Please be aware that by submitting this information request you consent to receiving email and phone communications from our company about our services.

Caring for a loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer's is emotionally challenging—as is the decision to move them to a Memory Care facility. The Village at Sydney Creek is here to assist you with this transition. Our community in San Luis Obispo, California provides a knowledgeable staff and the necessary resources to make this step as smooth as possible—logistically, mentally, and emotionally.

Garden Creek Lic. #405800467   |   Sydney Creek Lic. #405800577   |   © 2024 The Villages of San Luis Obispo.

The Village at the Palms BBB ID #778100   |  The Village at Garden Creek BBB ID #3000648  |  The Village at Sydney Creek BBB ID #3000884


PRIVACY POLICY We are the sole owners of the information collected on this site. We only have access to the information that you voluntarily give us via email or other direct contact from you. We will not share your information with any third party outside of our organization, other than as necessary to fulfill your request. Unless you ask us not to, we may contact you via email in the future to tell you about events, specials, new services, or changes to this privacy policy. Last updated 9/1/2015.

The Villages of San Luis Obispo is committed to ensuring digital accessibility for people with disabilities. We are continually improving our online user experience for everyone, and are committed to applying the relevant accessibility standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). If you have suggestions for how we can improve our  website accessibility please contact us at