Devika Wood
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Devika Wood

Co-Founder at Vida
Devika Wood is the Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Vida.
Devika Wood
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People with dementia can often show symptoms and aggression not inherently a part of their personality. Bouts of anger, retracting into their own shell, and inability to recognise their own loved ones is not uncommon. This behaviour is enough to unsettle even an adult, but can be exceptionally hard on children. Why is grandma angry with me? Why does she keep phasing out and forgetting things I only just told her? These questions can leave the child befuddled and resentful.

But there are ways to transform this potentially negative experience into a positive learning process for the child. Interacting constructively with loved ones suffering from dementia can not only make the child more understanding, but also help your loved one feel much better.

Here are some activities your children can happily engage in with their grandparents with dementia:

  1. Painting together

Kids love art and crafts, and now you can involve their grandparents too! Settle your kids down for a colouring session with grandma, or let them go wild with some brushes and paint. Painting and art also improves focus and concentration in dementia patients.

Make sure you applaud their joint masterpiece when they are done—both their grins will be worth the mess!

  1. Singing

Singing has been proven to calm down dementia patients, dowse their aggression and improve concentration. Why not let your kid practice their favourite rhymes and jingles with their grandpa? You can even try playing old classics you know the grandparent will love—old familiar sounds will ignite poignant nostalgia and make them feel relaxed.

So clap along as they both sing together—or maybe even join in on the chorus!

  1. Puzzles

Bring home puzzles with big, simple pieces, making sure to pick out the ones with minimal (4 to 6) elements. Then sit back and watch your kids and their grandparents work through them together. You can also experiment with basic card matching or join the dots games. Cognitive and mental exercises such as these keep the brain sharp in cases of dementia—and they’re fun too!

Also…

Most importantly, gently explain to your child what their grandparent may be going through. Give them clear ideas for striking conversations, or for storytelling. Mike, why don’t you tell grandpa about the circus you went to last week—or your new karate class?

Make them responsible for little parts of their grandparents’ care. Lucy, why don’t you bring grandpa a glass of water before he goes to bed every night? You should have milk and cookies with grandma when she has her evening tea! This will build a sense of responsibility in the child, and help them empathise with their grandparents. The grandparents themselves will also ease up with the child, as they slowly settle into a routine with them.

Building a positive, happy and understanding environment for the child is paramount, and teaching them to love their grandparent, no matter what, can go a long way.