Gemma's Mam was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer's when Gemma was around 11 years old. Understandably her mother's diagnosis had a huge impact on her childhood.
You can read her story here.
Based on her own childhood experiences, Gemma has written this advice for children coping with a parent with dementia.
- Do not bottle it up. Tell your school as a family what is going on and gain their full support.
- Do not suffer in silence, there is no need to.
- Speak to each other as a family, help each other.
- Write a memory book while possible of all the memories of your parent. The stories they tell you of them when they were little and when you were little. Refer to this when their memory is failing them. It is also a keep sake for you. Add pictures too.
- Always plan things to look forward to. Everyone needs a break before they break.
- Don’t get angry with your parent as they are scared and frustrated that they can’t remember. Some will openly talk about it and some will bottle it up and try to cover it up. Be there for them.
- Go with it. If they keep repeating a story just go with it. Don’t belittle them by keep telling them that you have already heard it. This just doesn’t help anyone and just causes friction and frustration.
- If they ask for their parents don’t tell them if they are no longer here as it only breaks their heart every time you tell them they are not.
- Confide in your friends. They WILL want to support you and inform their parents of what is going on too.
- Remember your parent is still there. They still have emotions they are not gone. Do not forget them as they do not forget us. Dementia just inhibits their memory.
- Do as much together as you can in the early stages. Unfortunately you can’t change the diagnosis no matter how angry you may be. Make the most of the time you have to create some happy memories. Add them to the memory book.
- It helped me greatly by helping others. Start raising some awareness and funds! You are not alone - become part of the fight against dementia!
- Gemma Little lives in Amble, Northumberland. Her mum was in her early 50s when she was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer's and died in 2006 aged 64. Gemma fundraises for local dementia charities and set up a Facebook page, Save the Memories in memory of her Mam and others with dementia.