New book ‘Feathers in my Brain’ teaches children about dementia

There is no easy way of explaining dementia to a child, but there is a very useful aid in the shape of a new book designed to address the fear children can feel when that special connection with Granny or Grandad is under threat.

New book ‘Feathers in my Brain’ teaches children about dementia

Feathers in My Brain is a creation of the Crystal Project, a ground-breaking community-based dementia service, led by occupational therapists in HSE North Cork.

It’s the story of Aoife and her gorgeously warm relationship with Granny, until Granny’s behaviour begins to change. What had been fun-filled, rule-free visits to her grandmother’s house become occasions of fear and anxiety as Granny repeatedly asks the same questions, or forgets to make dinner, or puts her tablets in the freezer.

Even worse, she gets cross a lot, not like the Granny who once understood Aoife better than anyone else.

When Aoife asks her parents to explain her grandmother’s strange behaviour, they tell her not to worry — pointless advice for a child who needs to understand.

Eventually, they do explain, and this allows Aoife to devise her own strategy to help her grandmother, with better results all around.

Sheena Cadoo, the occupational therapist who heads the Crystal Project, said they noticed in their work with families that there were limited resources for children who had a loved one with dementia.

“It is our aim that families will read this book together to help reduce some of the fear and anxiety that may exist when there has been a diagnosis of dementia,” she said. “We hope that this book helps to explain in a gentle, yet realistic way, some of the changes the family unit may be experiencing.”

Ms Cadoo said she hopes the book will help families gain insights “into ways in which children can continue to connect with their loved ones with dementia” and “how inclusion and openness can help everyone”.

Ms Cadoo said whole- family involvement “can be a great comfort and source of support to a person with dementia”.

In Ireland, 55,000 people are living with dementia — a condition that affects more than 500,000 families.

The book, written by Christine O’Riordan and illustrated by Nigel Robertson, can be purchased at crystalproject.ie/crystal-project-childrens-book-feathers-in-my-brain/ or by contacting Sheena Cadoo, 086 787 1818 or Amy Murphy, 086 781 2217. It costs €10, including postage and packaging.

Proceeds will go towards Crystal Project services.

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