Help for children of demented parents

More than 3,000 children in Denmark live with a demented parent in their home - often with overwhelming responsibilities, which lead to isolation, and several will experience problems in their adulthood.

"I stopped bringing friends home. It was too embarrassing and difficult to explain my father's situation. Instead, I spent all my spare time taking care of my father”, says Thomas Cena.

Thomas was only nine years old, when his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimerforeningen estimates that at least 3,000 children in Denmark live in similar situations, and unlike children of parents who suffer from cancer and other severe diseases; there has so far been no offers of help for the children of demented parents. This is despite the fact that dementia is known as a relatives' disease that takes a big toll on the family.

Alzheimerforeningen will this autumn therefore offer children and young people of dementia patients the opportunity to share their experiences and get help. The project runs until 2017 and is supported by VELUX FONDEN.

"It is very typical for children of ill parents to isolate themselves and deselect friends and hobbies to take care of their sick mother or father", says Jes Dige, psycho-pedagogical consultant at the Danish Cancer Society. Jes Dige has worked with grieving children for the last 23 years.

According to Jes Dige, the consequence can be that the children continue to isolate themselves and will have problems with bonding as adults.

Therefore, it is important to address the problems as early as possible. "With this offer from Alzheimerforeningen, children and young people are given the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts with others in the same situation, and we are giving them specific tools to handle everyday life. Thereby showing them that they are not alone with the responsibility – which would be impossible for anyone to bear”, says Ida Lind, who is coordinator of the project for Alzheimerforeningen.

Help is essential

It would be five years, before the 14 year old, Thomas Cena found someone to share his grief, worries and thoughts with. This was through a forum online for people in the same situation (Alzheimerforeningens Demensnet). Today Thomas is 23 years old, and he spends some of his time sharing his experiences and thoughts with others in the forum. He is delighted about the project. ”It can be very hard to ask for help when you are in the middle of things, but it is a big relief to discover that there are others in the same situation. Because sometimes you really feel alone”, says Thomas Cena.

For further information contact Ida Lind, T + 45 88 44 04 20 or email: ida@alzheimer.dk