Teens often have trouble connecting with older generations. If a neurological disorder such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is added to the situation, your teen may need even more help relating to grandparents.
Many adults experience a time when their adolescent children become more independent and their parents become less so. If you want to strengthen the connection between your teen and a grandparent who suffers from a neurological disorder, keep several factors in mind.
Help Your Teen Understand
Often, teenagers don’t see the correlation between their grandparent’s condition and actions. This may lead to some unasked questions that you need to pre-empt. Let your teen know that his or her grandparent is not crazy but suffering from an illness. Offer assurance that Grandma or Grandpa doesn’t feel differently about him or her. Explain to your teen that none of his or her grandparent’s actions are intended as malicious, and many of them aren’t intended at all.
For many teens, an ill grandparent who needs significant attention can cause feelings of defensiveness. The parental concern they have been accustomed to is now being focused on someone who, in the past, has always been capable of self-care. Be sensitive to these feelings, and invite your teen to join in the caregiving process.
Sharing the Caring
Responding to a grandparent who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be an opportunity for your teen to mature. Let your teen in on these tips to coping with the situation, and you may see adult integrity develop.
- Grandparents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are not as mobile as they once were, so activities may need to take the form of listening to music or reading a book together.
- Although a grandparent with Alzheimer’s may not remember certain events your teen enjoyed, he or she can still appreciate going through photo albums with your child.
- It’s OK to feel frustrated. Let your teen know he or she can share these feelings with you.
- Teens can play simple games with grandparents who are ill. It’s generally fun for everyone, and it helps develop a sense of camaraderie.
Search “teen talk” for information about discussing difficult issues such as these with your teen.
Reviewed by Daniel E. Waddle, Ed.S., L.M.H.C., L.C.A.C., manager, behavioral health, St.Vincent Stress Center.