Frances Shani Parker, eldercare consultant and Detroit, Michigan author of Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes, writes this blog. Topics include eldercare, hospice, nursing homes, caregiving, dementia, death, bereavement, and older adults in general. News, practices, research, poems, stories, interviews, and videos are used often. In the top right column, you can search for various topics of interest to you. You can also subscribe to this blog or follow it by email.
Children Learn About Dementia, Alzheimer's: School, Family Support (Video 3:51)
An educator who has been actively involved with introducing
children to the nursing home world and dementia for many years, I have always
been impressed with the sensitive ways they embrace knowledge
about this disease. Too often children’s comprehension levels are underestimated
by adults. When explained to them in age-appropriate ways that
support them in their learning, children are generally capable of understanding many important and unusual situations.
Trips with children (elementary-middle) to nursing homesfollowed a great deal of preparation that was integrated into the regular curriculum. This form of teaching-learning is called service-learning. During nursing home visits, I witnessed children's enthusiasm when older adults sang with them, even when a few residents fell asleep or
looked dazed. Although these words were not on the statewide school assessment test,
“dementia” and “diversity” became cool words on our classroom vocabulary list. They further described the human family in which everyone is connected and respected. When I led my class to leave a nursing home one day, a woman reached for my hand and
licked it a few times. It was a child who calmly reassured the class,
“It’s okay. She has dementia.” My pleased mind did an aha dance.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are topics that many adults avoid. This leaves children at
a serious disadvantage in terms of being informed about them and in seeing
adults modeling positive, proactive, dementia-related behaviors. By engaging
children with information about these topics at school and at home, adults can
impact future generations of healthcare recipients, service providers, and caregivers. Listening
to young people’s concerns and encouraging them to become involved are major
steps toward transformation. Family discussions can be helpful for everyone,
particularly as more family members are becoming caregivers for loved
ones with cognitive decline.
Children have meaningful stories to tell that can help
others understand their candid and sincere perspectives. Meet Dan, a boy who
shares his heartfelt story about his Nan before and after she developed
dementia. He explains his confusion and distress when he didn’t know what was
happening to her. Now, he has learned more about the disease and enjoys
visiting her at the nursing home. Dan has adjusted to his new Nan, one of his
“most important people.” Many say, “It
takes a whole village to raise a child.” But it also takes a whole village to
make a village whole.