Explaining dementia is tough at any age, and when your children or grandchildren are feeling the effects of interacting with a person with dementia it can be difficult to know how to frame the discussion with them. Today we’ve focused on showing you items in our collection that can support those discussions and enable kids to investigate on their own terms.
We’ve divided up our resources based on age-ranges, but please use these as a guide only. Choose the most relevant resources based on what you intuitively feel will appeal most to your audience!
Early Primary School kids (aged 5+)
Book: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, M. Fox
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, knows and likes all of the old folks in the home next door, but his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper she has four names, too. Hearing that she has lost her memory, he asks the old folks what a memory is (“Something from long ago” ; “Something that makes you laugh;” “Something warm;” etc.), ponders the answers, then gathers up memories of his own (seashells collected long ago last summer, a feathered puppet with a goofy expression, a warm egg fresh from the hen) to give her. In handling Wilfrid’s memories, Nancy finds and shares her own.
Book: My Gran’s Different, S. Lawson
Book: Let’s Talk About When Someone You Love has Alzheimer’s Disease, E. Weitzman
Kendra thought Grandma had forgotten about her. This book explains Alzheimer’s from the perspective of an early to mid-primary school aged child. It explains dementia, the stages of the disease, caring for someone with dementia and what that means, and normalises responses and emotions attached to seeing dementia affect a loved one.
For Mid Primary School kids (aged 6-8)
Book: Grandma Doesn’t Know Me Anymore, E. Gray
Book: Grandpa’s Stories, R. Tonkin
Patrick’s grandpa loved to tell stories about his childhood – wonderful stories about pet foxes and fun pranks; life as it was when Grandpa was a boy. Patrick has heard these stories often and knows them very well. So when Grandpa struggles with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and has trouble remembering, it is Patrick who must tell Grandpa’s stories.
Book: Sachiko Means Happiness, K. Sakai
A simply told, understated story of young Sachiko’s acceptance of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease is illustrated in warm, sunset tones, with insets featuring traditional Japanese motifs. The story is touching without being sentimental, and the setting of this small drama makes the book useful for those looking for contemporary images of Asian-American children.
Book: The Smell of Chocolate, B. McGuire
This book incorporates a story of Ben and his grandfather, Pog, which captures what living with a person with dementia is like – the highs and the lows. It also contains a very accessible ‘fact file’ on Alzheimer’s, information on brain change, the difference between forgetting and memory loss, ways to connect with someone with dementia, and some messages of hope and insight to conclude the book.
Book: Mile-High Apple Pie, L. Langston and L. Gardiner
Against the background of family life, this picture-book tells the story of a young girl’s evolving relationship, including growing understanding and emotional adjustment, with her grandmother who comes to live with the family when she begins to lose her memory.
For Late Primary School kids (aged 8 – 10)
Booklet: The Milk’s in the Oven
Book: Captain Mack, J Roy
Book: The Memory Box, M. Bahr
For Late Primary – Early Secondary
Book: Pearl Verses the World, S. Murphy
At school, Pearl feels as though she is in a group of one. Her teacher wants her to write poems that rhyme but Pearl’s poems don’t. At home, however, Pearl feels safe and loved, but her grandmother is slowly fading, and so are Mum and Pearl. When her grandmother eventually passes away, Pearl wants life to go back to the way it was and refuses to talk at the funeral. But she finds the courage to deliver a poem for her grandmother that defies her teacher’s idea of poetry – her poem doesn’t rhyme; it comes from the heart. A powerful and moving story about loss, grief and isolation. Deals with sensitive issues of dementia from the child’s perspective.
Book: What’s Wrong with Grandma?: A Family’s Experience with Alzheimer’s, M. Shawyer
Book: Back to Blackbrick, S. Moore Fitzgerald
Lost memories, lost times, lost lives – a stunning new debut novel. Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief by working all the hours God sends and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in . . . Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?
Website: When Dementia is in the House
This website is a truly fantastic thing. Plain-speaking and to the point, it describes the experience of living with a person with dementia, advice from others in the same situation, pitfalls and how to avoid them and useful information from medical professionals.
Short film: My Name is Lisa, Ben Shelton Films
This utterly brilliant short film illustrates in heart-rending detail what it’s like to live with a parent with dementia. I highly recommend you watch it, although it may be wise to have a tissue or two handy!
Aside from a slightly naff name, I mean who exactly are ‘young people’? It’s a confusing term to say the least! This book is pretty great. It identifies common questions, answers them and gives some great suggestions on how to cope and what resources you have to assist you. Also, as well as coming in to grab our copy, you can access it online.
Book: The Long and Winding Road, J Gillard
The Long and Winding Road describes the different forms of dementia and what happens to people with dementia and to their families. It outlines how young people may be affected and how they may feel, and offers practical suggestions to help overcome some of the difficulties. The book also aims to dispel the fear and loneliness experienced by young people encountering dementia in someone they love. Written in 1995, it’s a piece from our ‘way back collection’ but worth a look.
Book: Fading Memories: An Adolescent’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, the whole family is affected. Fading Memories is written by young people who are coping with Alzheimer’s Disease in their lives. This book outlines what Alzheimer’s Disease is and what happens to a person who has Alzheimer’s. You will find out how you can help care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, and how you can maintain a positive relationship with the Alzheimer’s patient, your family and friends. In addition to practical information, Fading Memories includes personal essays from adolescents who have experience living with Alzheimer’s first-hand.