It's never an easy decision to place a grandparent in a nursing home or a long-term care facility. It can be especially hard on children who have become accustomed to having grandma or grandpa around on a regular basis. Children are more perceptive than you may think. While they may understand that grandpa sometimes needs special care or that granny sometimes forgets, they may not fully understand why it's time to make the transition to a care home. There are books written on a child's level that can help make the transition a little easier for children.
Finding the Right Book
Start by finding a book that best resembles your particular family situation. Children tend to identify with certain characters in a book, which makes it easier to comprehend the lessons being taught. Here are some popular books on the subject:
• My New Granny by Elisabeth Steinkellner, Michael Roher - This book tells the story of a little girl named Fini. She always loved her grandmother's sense of adventure. She would cook, feed the ducks, and had traveled all over the world. Fini's grandmother eventually comes to live with Fini's family. She notices that she now needs special care and that's not acting the way she once did. Instead of feeding the ducks, she eats the breadcrumbs meant for the ducks and does not cook or travel anymore. The book explains the painful decisions that a family has to make when dealing with an older grandparent in a way that children can understand.
• Still My Grandma by Veronique Van Den Abeele - This book tells the story of a little girl named Camille and her special relationship with her grandmother. The relationship changes as her grandmother shows signs of Alzheimer's disease. The focus of this book is on finding creative ways to maintain a relationship with a grandparent once they are in a care facility and dealing with certain conditions that change how they act. This books shows children how to maintain some type of relationship with a grandparent.
• Emma's Question by Catherine Urdahl - This book focuses on what happens when a grandparent is dealing with an illness and needs special care. While not specifically about a nursing home or care facility, this book can help children when a grandparent has go away to a short-term or long-term care facility due to an illness.
• What's Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver - This books focuses on the relationship between a child and her grandfather. Kate always loved the way her grandfather would tell her stories. Lately though, he's been telling the same stories over and over and even forgets Kate's name. Eventually, he needs to go to a long-term care facility. Written from a child's viewpoint, this book makes the transition process easier to understand.
“It's a good idea to read these books with your children so that you can answer any questions they may have as they read”, says Steve Miller a frequent contributor for elder care finder from AssistedLivingToday.com. Take a break during certain parts of the book to encourage questions. If you're not sure exactly how to answer all your children's questions, ask the caregiver or the facility if they could send someone over to help answer questions that you and your children may have. Many local senior center's have additional brochures and other information you can use to answer your children's questions.
Focus on the Positive
It's natural to be sad when a beloved grandparent has to transition to a care facility, but don't dwell on this aspect of the move. Instead of telling your child that "grandpa can't live here anymore," focus on the positive by saying "grandpa is moving to a place where he will have people making him lots of good food and giving him extra special care to keep him safe and happy." You're not sugarcoating anything, you're just placing an emphasis on the positive. This is a lesson that can be appreciated by children of all ages - even grownups.
Always My Grandpa: A Story for Children about Alzheimer's Disease by Linda Scacco
The Memory Box by Mary Bahr
Grandpa Has Changed (Live and Learn Series) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
Striped Shirts and Flowered Pants: A Story about Alzheimer's Disease for Young Children by Barbara Schnurbush
Allie Learns About Alzheimer's Disease: A Family Story about Love, Patience, & Acceptance by Kim Gosselin
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