How do you explain dementia to a young child

this image shows Irene Mackay and her elephant ellie who she uses to educate children about dementia.

My Mother has dementia, how do you explain dementia to a young child ? Her grandaughter is only 4.

I am delighted to introduce to you Irene Mackay who recognised this was an issue that needed a child friendly solution. I will let her tell you about her valuable work.


My name is Irene Mackay and I am the Author of a children’s short story book called “The Forgetful Elephant” which explains dementia/memory loss to young children in a way that they can understand. My Mum is in the latter stages of Vascular Dementia and is now in a Care Home and in my previous job I worked as a Home Support Worker for Alzheimer Scotland.

I was inspired to write this story by the grand-daughter of a gentleman who I used to give support to. At that time Elyse was 3 years old and she was always present during my visits to her Grandpa and she couldn’t understand why he didn’t know her name or who she was anymore. This made me think that there must be hundreds of other young children who may be having to cope with this situation and so I wrote this story to help them to understand it a little better.

Since self-publishing it in March 2013 I have visited many local Primary Schools with my hand-puppets where after reading the story to the children I have a question and answer session. Even at such a young age I have found that some of them have relatives or know someone who has dementia/memory loss and it is amazing the questions that they ask, which just goes to show that they aren’t stupid and can understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

To find out more about me and the work that I have been doing to raise awareness, please visit my website It is designed to be a platform for discussion and information, to raise awareness of dementia and to provide practical coping strategies, especially with relation to children.

Irene Mackay



Award-winning blogger and former care columnist for Devon Life magazine. I am passionate about helping elderly people and people with dementia live purposeful and independent lives.
Designer of the Dementia Assistance Card and Points Of Light award recipient, Caron hopes to help carers when resources are limited and demand is ever-increasing. I am here to support you.

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