When you learn that someone you love has AD, you may wonder when and how to tell your family and friends. You may be worried about how others will react to or treat the person. While there is no single right way to tell others, we've listed some things to think about.
Think about the following questions:
Realize that family and friends often sense that something is wrong before they are told. AD is hard to keep secret. When the time seems right, it is best for you to be honest with family, friends, and others. Use this as a chance to educate them about AD.
For example, you can:
Help family and friends understand how to interact with the person who has AD. You can:
Communicate with others when you're out in public. Some caregivers carry a card that explains why the person with AD might say or do odd things. For example, the card could read, "My family member has Alzheimer's disease. He or she might say or do things that are unexpected. Thank you for your understanding."
The card allows you to let others know about the person's AD without the person hearing you. It also means that you don't have to keep explaining things.
When a family member has AD, it affects everyone in the family, including children and grandchildren. It's important to talk to them about what is happening. How much and what kind of information you share depends on the child's age. It also depends on his or her relationship to the person with AD.
Give children information about AD that they can understand. There are good books about AD for children of all ages. Some are listed on the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center website, www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.
Here are some other suggestions to help children understand what is happening:
If the child lives in the same house as someone with AD:
Many younger children will look to you to see how to act around the person with AD. Show children they can still talk with the person, and help them enjoy things each day. Doing fun things together can help both the child and the person with AD.
Here are some things they might do:
Some children may not talk about their negative feelings, but you may see changes in how they act. Problems at school, with friends, or at home can be a sign that they are upset. You may want to ask a school counselor or a social worker to help your child understand what is happening and learn how to cope. Be sure to check with your child often to see how he or she is feeling.
A teenager might find it very hard to accept how the person with AD has changed. He or she may find the changes upsetting or embarrassing and not want to be around the person. It's a good idea to talk with teenagers about their concerns and feelings. Don't force them to spend time with the person who has AD. This could make things worse.
If the stress of living with someone who has AD becomes too great for a child, think about placing the person with AD into a respite care facility. Then, both you and your child can get a much-needed break. See "Respite Services" for more information about respite care.
Publication Date: July 2012
Page Last Updated: July 20, 2012