An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be devastating to any family system. For young people, though, it can also be hard to understand. Whether your family has always known about a risk of dementia or cognitive impairment in the older adults you love or the diagnosis was unexpected, there are things you’ll want to discuss with your teenager to help make the diagnosis easier. Read on for ways to help your teen understand a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Educating Your Teen(s)
Most people have questions themselves as they come to try to accept or make sense of a loved one’s diagnosis. Teens are no different from adults in that they will naturally have questions following such a serious diagnosis. Instead of sheltering your teenager from your loved one’s condition, it might be a better idea to consider being transparent and helping them to understand things like Alzheimer’s vs dementia and normal cognitive decline versus serious memory loss.
Consider offering your teen the same resources medical professionals have given you. Work with them to understand what this diagnosis will mean for your family and specifically them. Have honest conversations about changes that may come as your loved one’s condition worsens, and make special plans on ways to spend time on good days with the person they love. In educating your child at Alzheimer’s and not holding back information, you’ll be empowering them.
Honest conversations should always be based on the child, their questions, and how much they’re comfortable with. Start by asking your child how much they want to know about your loved one’s condition. It’s important to remember that while your focus might be on the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, teens face other pressures, too. If they’re juggling college applications and applying for a fantastic National Honor Society scholarship while taking finals, it might be a good idea to wait to have these conversations. Timing is everything, and your teen will be more receptive to information if you let them set the pace as you help them unravel their own feelings about your loved one’s diagnosis.
Supporting Common Ground and Honoring Connection
As your teen shows interest, it’s a good idea to remember that mental health in young people is often tied to the connections and support systems they have in their lives. For this reason, you’ll want to consider their relationship to the person who’s been diagnosed. Do what you can to help them understand new ways to spend time with their loved ones to make memories they’ll have forever.
In the same way that being your best self is crucial for you when it comes to taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s important your teenager can spend quality time with their family member. Support them in setting time aside to make that happen after those honest conversations.
In the end, your teenager is probably more aware of their loved one’s condition than you might suspect. In being honest with them about things like daily life changes, financial planning, mood changes, and your family’s next steps, you’ll be giving them a gift. Instead of having unanswered concerns and fears, your teen will have the information they need to better understand the decisions being made around their loved one’s care. In including your teen in the process of coming up with a future plan, you’ll be showing them that not only do you respect them but that their feelings matter, too. Not only that, but you’ll be giving them life-long skills and the ability to process what can be a difficult diagnosis for anyone. In the future, your teen will thank you for your decision to be transparent instead of leaving them in the dark.