Children understanding dementia

Lake Heights schoolgirl Bibi Ioannou-Marsh is no longer afraid when her beloved Papu sees strange creatures or talks to someone who isn't there - she's happy to play along.

The nine-year-old is one of three children who have shared their experiences about a grandparent with dementia in an animated series by Alzheimer's Australia NSW.

Wollongong-based digital production house Why Documentaries and animator Nick Davlouros aim to help children better understand what changes may be happening to their grandparent.

"I used to love going to the movies with my Papu and I used to love gardening with him," Bibi said.

"Now he is in the home we mainly watch TV together and talk. Sometimes he calls me by my sister's name or sees things that aren't there but I know dementia can affect people in different ways.

"That's why I wanted to do the animation - so I could get that message out to other kids."

Bibi's mother Alex Ioannou said her father's dementia has been hard on the whole family, but it had been particularly hard for the children.

"Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2001 and then developed dementia with lewy bodies, a progressive dementia that can cause hallucinations and other changes," Mrs Ioannou said.

"Those things can be upsetting for children so it's important to talk to them and help them understand.

"I think this animation series is a really good resource for kids and adults as it gives children's insights into the condition."

Alzheimer's Australia NSW Illawarra project officer Mary Bills said it was important to give the younger generation a voice.

"It's important for us all to talk about dementia as there's a lot of stigma and fear around the group of illnesses that cause it," she said. "It's also important that the voice of the children comes through so we can recognise what's happening for them as well.

"This series is really accessible for other children as it's in animation form. It's also helpful for adults to see the way children can still relate to their grandparents with dementia, and still share a special bond."

My Grandmum, My Papu, My Grandpa and Me is available online on www.youtube.com/alzheimersaustralia

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