6 ways for kids to stay connected to grandparents with dementia

Grandparents struggling with dementia may still enjoy familiar activities; kids can engage them. Gail Elliot of McMaster University’s Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging makes a few simple suggestions

For toddlers and preschoolers

• Say “Show Grandpa how well you can play with your stacking toy” (or other errorless learning activity). Then Grandpa can join in and “help.” Also try dressing/undressing dolls together, colouring or doing puzzles.
• Ask a grandparent to help kids sort their toys (cars and trucks, different-coloured blocks or crayons). Place them in different labelled boxes.

For school-aged kids

• Kids and grandparents can give each other hand massages. “The need for human touch is intense,” says Elliot.
• Make a memory book to read together. Include enlarged photos of the grandparent at ages 15 to 25 (their clearest memory) and with family now. Label photos with large print.
• Take turns reading from Carry On Reading books (edited by Elliot), designed for people with dementia. Order from the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging. Or try other simple large-print books.
• Play a trivia game based on one of the grandparent’s interests. Make question cards, including two possible answers, then read and answer as a team — for example, Who sang the song “White Christmas”: Bing Crosby or Pierre Trudeau?

Learn how to talk to your kids about dementia.