Counseling Questions Dementia

My mother has dementia, and is starting to forget my daughter. How can I explain this to my daughter?

My daughter is 8 years old. Her grandmother (my mother) has dementia, and it has progressed to the point where she does not remember or know my daughter anymore. My daughter is devastated. How can I go about explaining this to her in a way she may understand?

4 Answers

Hmm, this is difficult. Be honest by saying she has dementia and individuals who have it have a hard time remembering people and places. Give your daughter ways to handle when your mom forgets. Remind your daughter it's okay to feel upset and sad. Let her know her emotions are normal. Tell her some of the ways you handle it as well. You could also have your daughter talk to her family doctor to come up with other ways to be with people who have dementia.
Discussing these matters with children is a tricky matter that most parents will face. My recommendation is that we avoid being dishonest or giving children a false sense that things will eventually go back to "normal" when, in reality, they will not. This will only temporarily provide relief and will ultimately cause more confusion and pain while potentially damaging trust and a child's sense of safety. I believe that the best course of action is to explain that the loved one is sick and that the sickness has caused certain changes in the loved one. Perhaps letting your daughter know that grandma is sick and that part of her condition is that she will lose her ability to remember things including people who she loves. Additionally, dementia patients may have some good days and some bad days, and ultimately, they will always struggle with their memory and the struggle may get worse over time. Most importantly, let your daughter know that it makes perfect sense that she would be sad about this and that it is best to talk about this sadness at times. Avoidance of the feelings and talking about changes in grandma will likely delay and complicate the inevitability of your daughter having to grieve the loss of grandma as she has known her. Counseling for her (perhaps with your involvement) could be extremely helpful in supporting a healthy grieving process.

Best wishes,

Hello, first let me express my sympathy for you and your family as you work to manage your mother's dementia. There really is not one answer for your question. It depends on how mature your daughter is. Most time the best thing do to is be open and honest with her and explain to your daughter what her grandmother is going through. The main point that should be given is that she has a medical condition, and it is the medical condition that is causing her not to remember her. As her condition will worsen. There are several books that you can read with her to explain the process and how to best handle it as a family. I have included a link, if you are interested in looking into the various options for books:
I’m sorry to hear about your difficult situation. I recommend first affirming with your daughter that this is sad and difficult to understand, even for adults. Then ask her if she has any questions. Often children are thinking and wanting answers much different than we think. Be there for her, let her talk and ask questions. Remember, as adults we don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. We don’t know why the brain does what it does, and it’s ok to feel sad, confused and frustrated about that.