Irene Mackay:

Raising Children’s Awareness of Dementia


irene mackayMy name is Irene Mackay. I live in Falkirk, Scotland and I welcome you to my website, and to my book The Forgetful Elephant (click here to buy) which introduces young children to dementia in a simple, respectful and straightforward way which they can easily understand.

The main character in the story is Ellie the Elephant. I invite you to subscribe to my Elliegrams Newsletter for regular updates about my work raising children’s awareness of dementia. For 2018 I have produced a charming Ellie Calendar with new illustrations, featuring key points to bear in mind when caring for someone living with dementia.

Explaining dementia to young children

I worked with young children as a nanny, and came to understand the sort of stories they enjoy. About six years ago my Mum was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia, and sadly passed away quite recently. As well as having looked after my Mum, I also cared for people with dementia in my role as a Home Support Worker for Alzheimer Scotland.

I have professional training and first-hand experience of dementia. I am passionate about raising awareness and helping to reduce the stigma and fear associated with the condition.

Answering questions about dementia gently and respectfully

I believe that education about dementia is just as important for young children as it is for adults and older children.  This is why I have written The Forgetful Elephant. The story explains dementia to young children gently and respectfully, without making it frightening or too complicated. It saddens me to see so many children’s books about dementia that directly or indirectly make fun of people with the condition, or give explanations which could be frightening.

The three-year old granddaughter of one of the people with dementia I cared for asked questions which led me to look for a suitable book to answer her with a respectful, sensitive explanation. When I could not find one I wrote The Forgetful Elephant, answering her questions.

Forgetful elephant front cover yellow web

Ellie Sessions – talking about dementia

Based on my book I give interactive Ellie Sessions to groups of children in schools and at special events, and also talks to adults about the importance of raising children’s awareness of dementia. See the Events page for more details.

As well as dementia, there are many other causes of memory loss, and it can be difficult to explain the associated changes in behaviour to a child. These changes may affect a grandparent, parent, sibling or other loved one. My book shows how even very young children can develop ways of maintaining relationships with those who have memory loss.

Capturing memories

To capture memories, I have written an activity booklet Getting To Know You for children to record an elder loved one’s memories. The activity encourages interaction and communication between children and older members of their family, and provides information for future generations which might otherwise be forgotten. The booklet can serve as a useful resource for carers if the person later develops dementia.

Raising awareness to reduce the risk of dementia

By raising children’s awareness of dementia I hope to encourage them and their families to follow a healthier lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing a memory loss condition. Increased awareness from an early age will also help in earlier diagnosis, and wider support for funding and research to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia.

I invite you to follow my work on my social media community #DementiaAwareKids, and welcome suggestions and connections world-wide to achieve my aim of raising children’s awareness of dementia.

On this website I share questions and answers, tips and resources for structured activities which children can enjoy with people who have dementia, for the benefit of all.

Irene Mackay

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