Dementia resources for kids and teens

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

WilfredGordonWilfrid 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

my_grans_diffCharlie’s gran doesn’t go to the footy, make cakes or work in the garden, because Charlie’s gran is different. A story of the love and complete acceptance that only a child can give.

Book: Let’s Talk About When Someone You Love has Alzheimer’s Disease, E. Weitzman

when_someone_you_love_has_ADKendra 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

grandma_doesnt_know_meThis is the story of 11 year old Andrew, whose grandmother has dementia. Dementia and it’s impact on Andrew and his family is explained simply and thoughtfully.

Book: Grandpa’s Stories, R. Tonkin

grandpas_storiesPatrick’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

sachikoA 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

smellofchocolateThis 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

mile_high_apple_pieAgainst 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

milks-in-oven-rebrand-compI can’t say it better than the intro to this great little booklet, so without further ado…

“Some of you may know somebody who has dementia. Maybe they live with you and you help to take care of them. If so, you won’t need me or anyone else to tell you how difficult and upsetting it can be. You want to look after people you love, but it’s not easy to know what to do for the best when someone has dementia. Often people with dementia forget how to do things, so they might put the milk away in the oven, instead of the fridge. Sometimes you feel really angry because nothing you do seems to make any difference. The booklet tells you about how people with dementia behave and feel, and gives you a few ideas to try and help you understand more.” p. 2
This booklet contains some great exercises for giving kids some insight into what having dementia might be like and ways to connect with a person with dementia. It’s available online. Ah, the wonders of the internet!

Book: Captain Mack, J Roy

captain_mackThis book describes the unlikely friendship between a boy and a man with dementia. Told from Danny, a late primary school-aged boy’s perspective its a unique story about relating to a person with dementia, focusing on the person and not the illness and finding the joy in the connection.

Book: The Memory Box, M. Bahr

When Gramps realizes he has Alzheimer’s disease, he starts a memory box with his grandson, Zach, to keep memories of all the times they have shared.The_memory_box

For Late Primary – Early Secondary

Book: Pearl Verses the World, S. Murphy

pearl_vs_worldA moving illustrated verse novel about a girl dealing with isolation at school, and with her grandma’s illness at home.
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

whats_wrongWhat’s Wrong with Grandma? follows one family’s journey through the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, as told by the youngest child, Ellen. Along with her family, Ellen tries to fit together all the scattered pieces of puzzle concerning her grandmother’s behavior. Young Ellen expresses, as only a child can, the frustration, sadness, and even anger felt toward Grandma’s peculiar behavior, her lapses of memory, and her unexplained fears. But she also captures the warmth and humor of special moments the family shares with Grandma. Readers will learn, as Ellen does, that there are no simple answers, and that with understanding and love families can embrace their elders with Alzheimer’s and cherish their time together.

Book: Back to Blackbrick, S. Moore Fitzgerald

BackBlackbrickPitched at late primary school kids and early secondary students.  This is a well-written, insightful and modern story of a young care-giver’s struggles to accept the many changes and responsibilities being forced upon him and still connect with the grandfather he knows and loves. It elegantly identifies and articulates the multi-layered strands of grief and loss and day-to-day coping that families experiencing dementia know all too well.‘The ghosts in your life don’t ever really go away. Every so often they will whisper to you, and they will brush past you and maybe you will even feel their misty sweet breath on your skin. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it too much.’

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?

For Teens

Website: When Dementia is in the House

when_dementiaThis 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!

Book: Understanding Dementia: A guide for young people

understanding_demAside 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

long_and_winding_roadThe 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

fading_memoriesWhen 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.

2 thoughts on “Dementia resources for kids and teens

  1. another excellent kid’s book is “Celia and Nonna” which focuses on the transition to residential care for a grandmother who has dementia. The book beautifully conveys how the granddaughter (Celia) helps her by creating pictures of their memories to decorate the wall of her room in the aged care facility.

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