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It’s no secret that dementia takes a toll on the whole family. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, affects about 5.7 million Americans. That means you may know someone who’s been diagnosed recently—maybe even your own mother or father.

Here’s how to help your child understand what’s going on, with tips from the Alzheimer’s Association:

Explain the basics. Teach kids what dementia means: It’s not just memory loss, but a disease that affects how the brain works and how a person thinks. Changes in the brain make it hard for people with dementia to remember things, even family member’s names or how to get dressed. Older kids can learn more at alz.org/kids.

Nurture family bonds. Suggest activities kids can do to connect with a relative with dementia, such as watching reruns of funny TV shows, listening to classic songs or looking at old photos together.

Teach kindness. Even if a person reaches the point when communication is difficult, a person with dementia can still sense tenderness and compassion. Explain that even if Grandma’s brain is different now, she’ll feel your child’s love through his or her presence. That’s a good reminder for us grown-ups, too.

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