Grandparents with Alzheimer’s can still love their grandkids

The value of a strong relationship between grandparents and grandchildren

Ray Burow avatar

by Ray Burow |

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On any given day in our family, back when all four grandparents were alive, they were thick as thieves with their five grandkids, and I’m so glad of it. Every day with a grandparent in it should be celebratory.

Think about it: Grandchildren have a relatively short amount of time to enjoy a relationship with their grandparents. My mother passed away when the youngest in our family was 8 and the oldest child was 20. It wasn’t much time in the grand scheme of life, but enough for my kids to fall for their grandmother, find her endearing, and let her go.

Grandparents hold a special place, an indescribable spot, in the hearts of their grandchildren, and as parents, it’s essential we sanction and cultivate that relationship. My kids’ grandparents were invaluable to them. The older adults listened, played, and talked to their grandkids, reaching them on an entirely different plane than my husband and I could. My kids were comforted to know that their grandparents were always on their team.

Sometimes, however, grandparents are shunned by parents who won’t allow their kids to connect with them. While some parents have valid reasons for doing so, the situation is exceptionally sad — especially when the reason for the separation is Alzheimer’s disease.

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Grandparents with Alzheimer’s are still worth celebrating

Even if grandparents have created a warm and loving relationship with their grandchildren, I’ve seen parents disallow them the privilege of continuing that relationship after a grandparent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. They’re no longer allowed to spend time with their grandkids.

I don’t aim to judge parents who make such decisions, since, in some cases, it might be warranted. However, a willy-nilly decision to cut off a grandparent or another family member only because they have dementia is wrong. It’s hurtful to the grandparents and does an incredible disservice to the grandchildren.

Our five children have fond memories of their grandmother before and after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. They found her deeply endearing from their early years, so their love for her remained. Tearing them away from Granny would’ve broken their hearts, and my mother would’ve suffered. She continued to love them, and they her. She was involved in their day-to-day lives, and they were present for her decline, though it was painful.

Such is life

While my mother remained kind during her bout with the disease, Alzheimer’s caused a marked difference in her behavior, and the kids noticed. She wasn’t the same Granny who had baked cookies, read bedtime stories, and sent treats through the mail, but it was valuable for our kids to know her in her last years. Playing on the floor with trains or Legos entertained my son, the youngest, as well as his granny.

Today, my children are an empathetic bunch, and I’m convinced that their continued involvement in my mother’s life helped keep her present more days than not and slowed her decline.

No family wants to experience Alzheimer’s disease. However, there’s a potential advantage to having a grandparent with the illness: Children gain insight into the impact of Alzheimer’s. Their worldview is broadened as they become wiser in their assessment of life and love. Along with their caregiving parents, children learn that the world is full of good and bad things, and how we approach bad experiences matters.

Who knows? A child exposed to a grandparent with Alzheimer’s may be inspired to one day find a cure.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


Steve Wilkes avatar

Steve Wilkes

Thank you so very much, Ms. Burow! I am diagnosed with Alzheimers and your article has uplifted my faith & spirits tremendously. I only have 1 granddaughter, age 8, who I love totally and gladly. We have a wonderful loving relationship: she is incredibly smart, articulate, funny and joyful with me and vice versa. Lotsa hugs and laughter. Your article has increased my happiness and I will pass it on to my granddaughter. GBY!
(*God Bless You)

Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Mr. Wilkes,
I am humbled by your response. Thank you for your kind words. I wish you and your beautiful granddaughter many wonderful experiences in the days, weeks and years ahead.
Regarding your salutation, "God has blessed me, and I pray that He will also bless you. In fact, from what you've shared about your relationship with your granddaughter, I'm certain He already has.

All the best!

Ruth avatar


Excellent article! Particularly thought provoking is the last sentence answering the question “Who knows?”

Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Thank you, Ruth, for your kind words and also for being a part of our community.


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