Explaining Alzheimer’s to Kids

July 12, 2017

When Alzheimer’s strikes an elder member of the family, everyone is affected, right down to the grandchildren. It often falls on parents to try and explain a disease that can be confusing and often frightening, while trying to calibrate their message to kids of varying ages and levels of understanding. If you or someone you know is facing this challenge, there are many resources, both online and printed, to help make the process a little less daunting. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Maria Shriver’s What’s Happening to Grandpa? helps explain the disconcerting and frightening aspects of dementia-related memory and behavioral changes through a conversation between a mother and daughter. For grades K-4.
  • Remember, Grandmamemory loss and forgetfulness, as told through the eyes of 8 year-old Margaret and her grandmother. For grades 1-3.
  • Mary Bahr’s The Memory Box tells the touching story of Zach, whose grandfather decides they’ll build a memory box together once he learns of his own Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The School Library Journal calls this a “moving, sympathetic, and ultimately comforting book”. For grades 1-3.


  • The HBO-produced video companion to Maria Shriver’s book of the same name, “What’s Happening to Grandpa?” shares the experiences of five children, ages 6-15, who have grandparents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Shriver provides commentary throughout the 30-minute film, offering age-appropriate lessons and advice based partially on her own experience as the child of an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
  • The video “About My Grandfather, About My Grandmother”, produced by the Alzheimer’s Society, offers the perspective of children and teens from two different families who are coping with grandparents’ dementia. They share feelings about what it was like to learn about the diagnosis, how they’re dealing with the fallout, and where they’re able to find support.


  • The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America hosts AFA Teens, an online community meant to educate, support, and empower teenagers affected by Alzheimer’s. They provide space for sharing experiences, offer links to educational resources, and refer teens and their families to support services and programs offered by AFA and partner organizations.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association has produced a five-part video series available on its website that deals exclusively with how teens can best understand what Alzheimer’s is, how it’s likely to progress, and also what they can do to work towards a cure.
  • Susan Underdahl’s young adult novel Remember This depicts the onset of Alzheimer’s through the eyes of Lucy Kellogg, a teenager struggling to balance the challenges of high school with the frustration and pain of watching her ailing grandmother change before her eyes. The book manages to be comforting and moving, while pulling no punches. For grades 7-12.