Children Will Benefit From the Gentle Explanation of Alzheimer’s in Travels With My Granny by Juliet Rix

Travels With My Granny Juliet Six

By Juliet Rix illustrated by Christopher Corr

Granny is a great traveller. These days her legs won’t carry her much further than the door, but she still travels and sometimes she takes her grandchild with her. The grown-ups think Granny is confused and doesn’t know where she is, Grandchild thinks differently: Granny knows exactly where she is, it just isn’t where the grown-ups are.

Travels With My Granny is a colourful, upbeat picture book that takes kids around the globe while also providing a really simple, respectful and positive way for them to start to understand dementia.

Adults behaving unpredictably can be really scary for a child, but if they’ve read this book, their trusted grown-up can say, “perhaps (s)he’s travelling like Granny in the story….I wonder what’s happening where (s)he is today?” Even if the older person is angry or distressed, you can say to a child, “Seems like something difficult is happening where they are. Hopefully they’ll be back here soon and everything will be OK.”

With millions of people now living with dementia, children are inevitably affected – if not directly then by events they see in the street or their friends’ families. They need to understand – and we need them to understand. It is in all our interests to help create a dementia-friendly next generation. After all, they are the ones who will be deciding our care!

I was prompted to write this book by people I interviewed as a journalist – people living with dementia, themselves or as carers, professionals and families. One man’s story especially stuck in my head. He was primary carer for his wife who had dementia. Because he was also elderly, carers came in each evening to help get his wife ready for bed. Sometimes she became upset when they tried to undress her. They didn’t understand, he told me, that his wife might be somewhere else: “you would get upset too, if someone tried to undress you in the middle of a bridge”.

I have been told by people working in the field that the book is useful for adults too, reminding them of the current thinking on how to communicate with people with dementia – ie going with them as much as possible rather than always forcing them into our reality.

I am delighted to say that I have had very favourable responses from families and teachers as well as from leading dementia experts in the UK and US. American geriatrics specialist and inventor of the Virtual Dementia Tour, PK Beville, describes the book as “Perfect for introducing kids to the idea of dementia…It ‘normalizes’ dementia in such a positive way.”

Travels with my Granny is now being developed into a puppet play, and is available in Dutch and French as well as English.

As the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK says, children need to know about dementia before it happens to a loved-one, and to be able to support other children who are coping with dementia in the family. So this book is not just for kids with direct links to the condition; it is for all kids – and it includes a fun spotting game and is good for their geography too!

I have created a couple of (free) resource sheets for teachers and would love to find a sponsor to get the book into every elementary school – and every care home.

My hope is to maximise the impact of my small contribution to making life easier for people living with dementia, de-stigmatising the condition, and creating a more dementia-friendly future into which both Granny and Grandchild can happily travel.

Juliet Rix

Twitter @julietrix1


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Juliet Rix is an award-winning freelance journalist, author and broadcaster based in London, England. She has worked for the BBC, Times, Telegraph, Guardian and many other national and international outlets in all media. She is the author of two non-fiction books for adults and two works of fiction for children.

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