Helping a child understand about young onset dementia (YOD)

When a parent has young onset dementia (YOD), it is not just the parent but the whole family – including the children that is affected. Thus it is important not to hide the truth from them.

Although it can be difficult for young ones to fully understand what dementia is, there are tips that parents can use.

Ms Linda Lim, Advanced Practice Nurse/Nurse Clinician from the Department of Neurology at National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the SingHealth group, shares more from NNI’s book entitled "Dementia: The Tangled Brain":

  • Be honest with your child: A parent should not hide the fact that he or she is suffering from dementia. If explaining the issue to your child is difficult, get help from a professional or someone who understands dementia.

  • Involve them: Children can play a supportive role in caring for a parent with YOD. They can subtly be encouraged to play games, such as pick-up sticks and crossword puzzles, with the parent to cognitively stimulate him.

  • Get rid of their self-blame: Let your child know that the disease is not caused by them.

  • Teach them to look after themselves too: Tell your child that it is okay to seek help when he or she cannot cope, and the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health.

  • Share feelings: Encourage your child to share his or her feelings, and ask them to make time for themselves. Most of all, be grateful for the little things that go well.

  • Get informed: Encourage your child to learn more about dementia. Try checking out the book "Dementia: The Tangled Brain". It uses simple language to help the young understand more about dementia.

    Targeted at teens and young adults, "Dementia: The Tangled Brain" explains what YOD is, lists changes in behaviour, and suggests ways to cope and help a loved one suffering from it. It also contains games and advice on scrapbooking, and acknowledges the difficulty of caring for someone with YOD.

Ref. Q15