Plus FREE Patient Handout: Answering Kids Questions About Dementia. Read about a personal story of a woman, her mother, raising kids and how writing a book helped her on her journey. | SeniorsFlourish.com #geriatricOT

OT’s Role in Helping Grandkids Understand Dementia

Mandy Chamberlain MOTR/L Education & Tips for Independent Living 0 Comments

As an occupational therapist helping older adults with dementia, we come into contact with many family's caring for their parents. These caregivers are also known as the "sandwich generation," because they are not only taking care of their parents, but also raising their own kids.

Our role as Occupational Therapists are to #1. provide services for our patients, but also #2. provide caregiver education, which includes helping the entire family understand the processes of disease, stress relief strategies and education in the physical aspects of caregiving.

<< Click here for a FREE Patient Handout (Book Snippet of the Q & A Section): Answers to Kid's Questions About Dementia >>

Kathryn Harrison, author of Weeds in Nana's Garden

Kathryn Harrison's "Weeds in Nana's Garden" explains a grandparent's dementia to grandchildren. Plus FREE Patient Handout: Answering Kids Questions About Dementia. Read about a personal story of a woman, her mother, raising kids and how writing a book helped her on her journey. | SeniorsFlourish.com #geriatricOT

I met Kathryn through Instagram and found out she was writing a book for kids asking "What is Alzheimers and dementia?" and I thought it was a perfect fit for Seniors Flourish. There is such an honesty in this book and her children's love for their Nana shines through.

Below is Kathryn's personal story and how she came to write her book. Sign up to win a free signed copy!

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Bringing Kids into the Mix

Singing loudly to nursery rhymes • Eating candy off the floor • Steading a tea cup • Laughing as flowers fly through the air • Adjusting the wheelchair lock • Snuggling a soft toy

When young children mix with dementia patients, good things can happen! Although kids often feel scared around someone who is acting differently from a dementia disease, with time, patience, explanation and reassurance, the relationship between a child and the patient can be enriching for both.

My children were still small when my mom showed signs of young onset dementia. But despite the disease, they adored many activities with her. Their Nana was eager to join them in eating spilt candy off the floor. Their Nana sang the loudest to nursery rhymes. Their Nana picked flowers in the garden and flung them over the yard, while my kids chased them hysterically.  We found moments to be happy together.

Kathryn's mother and children. Read about a personal story of a woman, her mother, with Alzheimer's, raising kids and how writing a book helped her on her journey. | SeniorsFlourish.com #geriatricOTAnd even as my children got older and my mom’s disease progressed, the connection was very positive for us all. Over time, my children were very open to not only playing with their Nana but also, to offering her loving care. They could steady the tea cup, as their Nana stirred it. They could put on her favorite song. This interest in being part of the caregiving team brought them closer to her and motivated them to come and visit more often. It also increased their confidence with her and with themselves.

We did spend time explaining the disease to my children. They were reassured that the illness couldn’t be caught, like a cold. We talked about how it was a disease in the brain that caused the behaviour and movement changes. It was difficult for them to understand without it becoming too complex. But then, my daughter observed the growing weeds in my mom’s now neglected garden and we realized we could connect dementia diseases in the brain to those garden weeds.  This visual metaphor made sense to my kids.

Once my mom moved into a nursing home, we encountered a few professional caregivers who also recognized the power of my children’s contribution and welcomed their help. These caregivers showed my son how the mechanical bed worked so he could help lower and raise it. They gave instructions on adjusting the wheelchair to both. My daughter was asked to pick out a scarf or choose Nana’s soft toy to snuggle. When any medical readings were taken, like blood pressure or temperature, these individuals didn’t ask us to leave – they explained what they were doing and my kids watched attentively. From time to time, my children were also invited to sit and do artwork with my mom and the other residents. These caregivers showed great patience with my children and it paid off. By inviting my kids to participate, everyone benefitted.Plus FREE Patient Handout: Answering Kids Questions About Dementia. Read about a personal story of a woman, her mother, raising kids and how writing a book helped her on her journey. | SeniorsFlourish.com #geriatricOT

Watching my children stay bonded with their Nana and be empowered by her disease helped heal my heart. As a result, I became motivated to find other ways to bring kids into the dementia experience and spread understanding. I decided, as an artist and marketer, that I could create a picture book to help many kids understand Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias and use the garden metaphor mentioned earlier. 

So I set out to create an engaging illustrated book that candidly guides the reader through the typical stages of dementia, while also celebrating the remarkable strength of the heart. This book, published last month, is fittingly called Weeds in Nana’s Garden. It tells the story of the bond between a grand-daughter and her Nana within a colorful magical garden. At the end of the book, a Question and Answer section is included for more explanation.                                                          

<< Click here for a FREE Patient Handout (Book Snippet of the Q & A Section): Answers to Kid's Questions About Dementia >>

And to extend the reach of this effort, $1 from the sale of each book will be donated to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, an organization that supported me greatly during my mom’s illness.

Managing dementia diseases is a difficult journey for families. But there is an opportunity to gain from involving children in the process. Let’s encourage them to take an active role. I hope my book can play a small part in fostering this involvement. Together with enthusiastic, open and patient adult caregivers, more families can experience the benefits of kids in the mix.

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

Kathryn Harrison and her familyCanadian Author/Illustrator Kathryn Harrison holds a compelling blend of science, marketing and art skills. Although creating throughout her life, stirred by her personal experience with dementia, she’s been able to layer all her different abilities together in this book. Furthermore, Harrison self-published the work under the name Flipturn Publishing, so she could maximize her contribution to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. A former competitive swimmer, she chose that name to acknowledge the need to turn and face a new direction once dementia arrives in the family.


Buy Weeds in Nana’s Garden in hardcover from the book’s website, http://weedsinnanasgarden.com or in softcover or ebook at online retailers like Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk.

If you are interested in reading more about tips for Alzheimer's and dementia, take a peak at my post about Alzheimer's Bathing Battle Tips.

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