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I’m fortunate to have most of my grandparents and my children have great-grandparents. They are getting older and a few of them have dementia. I’m prepared and aware of the situation, but my kids, as expected, are not. They are between the ages of 1-7.
We don’t see my grandparents often but I am trying to plan a few trips to see them, potentially with the kids. How do you prepare little ones to interact with older people going through cognitive decline?
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This can be such a sad time to see our loved ones deteriorate with age. For my family, my mother was ageing with dementia and we were unsure who we would be meeting on any given day, in terms of mum remembering us or being in an irritable or happy mood. I found it was important to let the kids know when visiting that grandma may be a bit a grumpy today and forgetful, but that she still loves us. Also, always bringing something nice for grandma to eat would generally set the scene for a nice family visit together.
It is a blessing to have your grandparents in your life. I was blessed to have most of my grandparents while growing up. Fortunately we didn’t witness any cognitive decline in them.
My maternal grandmother did face mobility issues and I had to explain it to my kids that amma could not walk because her leg got fractured. Once they understood, they were always very caring and ready to offer help.
Love has its own language and even if the elder ones have memory loss or difficulty in recognizing familiar people, they will still cherish the company of young loving kids. It is great that your kids will be visiting your grandparents.
It would be nice if you can explain it to your kids that they need to be very caring and gentle towards the grandparents. I don’t think kids as young as yours will even feel the declining memory rather they will enjoy the loving touch and kind talk with them.
They will be making memories with their grandparents and will cherish these moments when they grow older.
Have safe and memorable trips.
Spending time with older relatives is so wonderful for kids. Whilst they may be experiencing cognitive decline, your kids might not even realise.
When my Nanna began to decline, her mind became focused on that time in her life when she had young children of her own. This meant that she was so delighted to have little ones around and it brought her so much joy. She shared stories about her own pregnancies, births and life with young children.
Whilst its good to prepare your kids, this could also be a very natural thing for them to experience. Certainly talk to them about any particular areas of concern and then just let things happen naturally. Best of luck and enjoy this special time together.
It is hard to see our loved ones declining, mentally or physically.
Fortunately, your littlest ones will not know the difference.
Older folks just enjoy seeing the children play, bringing them cards and flowers, and receiving hugs.
For children who may have questions, you can simply explain, "granny is starting to forget". Forgetfulness sometimes happens when you get old". They will accept your words at face value and not give it much thought.
They all will be fine. It is wonderful that both your senior family members and the children will have time to spend together. It will mean so much to everyone!
Remember that your grandparents may tire quickly and easily during visits, so I would keep them short unless they ask you to stay longer.
Have a great visit!
I remember my grandfather and my son who fortunately met and spent time together before his passing years ago. My grandpa who was already 88 at that time had already difficulty in hearing and almost always could not recognize us when we visited him. My son was already 3 years old then and I remember him being very excited to see my grandpa. Perhaps, he could see it in me.
I remember bringing my grandpa's favorite snack to share with my son, and turning on the TV to his favorite sports channel so he could watch with my son. At 3, my son understood that "what grandpa wants, grandpa gets" and did not throw a fit when he wanted to watch his favorite cartoon instead.
Before visiting, I always talk to my son and told him grandpa needs all the love and care he could get. He would love to talk to you but you have to talk a little louder so he can hear you. You don't need to be afraid too if grandpa raises his voice too, He is not mad when he does that.
I think it is very important to sit down with your child and talk to him about what to expect when visiting great grand parents. It will also make a huge difference if they see that you are also excited and looking forward to spending time with the elders in the family.