Educating Children About Dementia
With over 50 million people living with dementia around the world, and around 10 million people being diagnosed every year, it is an ever growing social issue which needs addressing. With the help of awareness raising efforts and fundraising we can work towards a world without dementia, and an increase in support for those living with it; this all starts with education.
Active Minds are endeavouring to help educate the younger generations about dementia, to help increase awareness and understanding, whilst removing the stigma surrounding dementia. Whilst it can often be difficult topic to discuss, by educating young children through school and at home about dementia, it can become easier to understand should a loved one have been, or ever be diagnosed.
Why Is It Important
With 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 living with dementia and someone developing it every three minutes in the UK, it is likely that younger generations will know someone, whether a loved one or a family friend, that is living with the dementia. It is therefore important to educate and promote awareness about dementia so that young children understand the changes they may see in the person.
Explaining Dementia to Children
When opening up the conversation about dementia, it’s important to bear in mind a few factors. These include things such as altering language, so it is age-appropriate and being calm and concise in your explanations. Remember that children are naturally inquisitive and will have plenty of questions, it’s important that these are addressed so they felt heard. Here are just a few tips for explaining dementia to younger children.
The Right Setting
When discussing emotional and difficult subjects with young children it is important that they are in a comfortable and familiar setting. An educational environment such as school can be the perfect place to introduce discussions about dementia, as children will be in a learning mindset. Interactive and open discussions about dementia along with utilising age-appropriate learning resources can be an excellent way to educate.
Encouraging young children to continue to be involved in their loved one’s life will help in further understanding. Things such as visiting them regularly or perhaps even getting involved in activities with them, will all help with acceptance and understanding.
Honesty Is Key
Whilst you may have to carefully word explanations so they are age-appropriate, honest and open discussions surrounding dementia can greatly beneficial for younger children. Offering clear answers and reassurance can help to reduce any anxieties about the unknown. The more honest you are in the first instance, the greater the understanding will be.
It may be unlikely that young children have ever encountered or heard of dementia, and as such, it is important to take the time to answer any questions they may have. Encouraging questions around the subject can make it easier to talk about and help the young person feel listened to.
Make sure to give the young person reassurance as you go along and encourage them to voice their feelings about the subject. This can be a difficult topic to discuss so it’s important to give the younger person time to process everything and express emotion.
There are a wide variety of resources available for explaining dementia, from utilising books produced by dementia and Alzheimer’s charities to classroom learning documents. These resources have all been produced to help make the learning experience easier, so it’s important to utilise these wherever you can.
When a loved one is told they are living with dementia it can be a very difficult for everyone involved and particularly so for younger children, as grasping the changes they see in their loved one can be confusing. It is therefore important to educate the younger generations about dementia and how it may affect someone they know. Spending time to discuss dementia, whether in a school or home environment can be highly beneficial.
Active Minds have put together a series of informative resources specifically tailored for children, which can be extremely useful for starting the conversation around dementia.