The 7-year-old child says, “I don’t want to visit Grammy anymore. She doesn’t remember me and she scares me!”
This is a major dilemma with adult children whose parent has dementia. It’s difficult for the adult to reconcile their parent’s disease progression – and they have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the disease that is robbing them of their parent. Now imagine a child’s inability to comprehend the disease. All they know is that Grandma seems upset when the child visits and on top of that, no longer recognizes him. When one considers that adult children sometimes dread visits with their mother or father with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it seems easier to just let those visits slide for the younger members of the family. My daughter was an adult when her Grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I can only proffer a guess at what I might have tried in order to make her visits with him a comfortable experience.
Should parents force their children to visit the person whom the child has started to fear?
Forcing anyone to do anything isn’t always the best strategy to follow. In these circumstances, it could almost be considered cruel. My grandparents lived in a different country than my family. Us three kids saw our grandparents maybe six times before they died. Having the opportunity to live near an older relative would have been a novelty for me as I’ve always envied those who grew up with Grandma and Grandpa nearby. With that said, however, I acknowledge that close proximity alone in this situation is not a sufficient motivator.
How can grandchildren still maintain a relationship with their Grandma and Grandpa?
The distracted visit – visiting but doing his own thing as well. If the parents are able to provide some sort of distracting activity while visiting Grandma, the child might get more accustomed to their grandparent’s behavior. The child casually observes how mom and dad interact with Grandma – while still being able to watch their favorite video or play with their hand-held electronic game – and gradually feels more secure being there. Over time, but certainly not immediately, he may realize that Grandma is no longer someone to be feared and may attempt his own interaction with her.
Parents visit without the child and provide engaging updates to their child when they get home. Parents can keep their child connected by telling him the funny/cute thing Grandma said that day when they visited and also making the child aware of the positive things that are happening in Grandma’s life to balance out the overwhelming negative that pervades it. Who knows, this reporting tactic might actually lead to the child’s “distracted visit” next week. Curiosity may be just the ticket that gives the child the desire to see Grandma.
There’s SO much more that needs to be said on this topic.
I haven’t even addressed the issue of early-onset dementia that thrusts young children and teens into an extremely challenging relationship with a parent whose disease robs their children of the guidance that their parent might normally provide during their adolescence. What can you, the Baby Boomers and More Blog audience, contribute to that very unfortunate, and ever-increasing reality, in today’s world?
I’m very much looking forward to what you can add – successes and failures – that will benefit those of us searching for advice and guidance.