About the material
This teaching material is aimed at nursery school teachers, primary school teachers and lower secondary school teachers who wish to teach children and young people about dementia.
The material contains:
- Teaching slides
- Teaching guides with references to supplementary material on the subject.
- Worksheets / quizzes and films
- Brochures for teachers
- Brochures for parents
The material is devised differently, to suit particular learning ages: Nursery school - 3rd grade, 4th - 6th grade, and 7th - 10th grade (also suitable for boarding schools).
All of the material is accessible and free.
The material was devised during the period 2017-2019 by Aalborg Municipality with financial support from the Danish Health Authority in connection with a national dementia action plan. The material is part of Initiative 14; local and national activities supporting a dementia-friendly society.
Our children will become the next generation of responsible adults. There are 400,000 people in Denmark who have a loved one who has dementia. But there are 5.7 million people living in Denmark. These individuals make up the society that people with dementia must interact with when they leave their homes. If Denmark is to be an understanding society in relation to people who have an illness that cannot be seen with the naked eye, it requires knowledge and insight into what it means to have the illness. This knowledge should not just be for adults, should it? Children also hear about the authorities or families trying to find people with dementia who have gone missing or learn that someone famous has dementia, etc.
When a child has grandparents, there is often a loving and close bond between the grandchild and the grandparents. They go on holiday together, the child is looked after by the grandparents, and so on. When one of your grandparents develops dementia, contact with them often withers away. ou stop going on holiday together and perhaps your grandparents stop attending birthday celebrations. Children can find that people with dementia are difficult to understand. They do or say things that don’t seem to make much sense. But why are my grandparents suddenly so distant and different? It’s not like they’re dead. By talking with the children you can help them to understand that it is not their fault that their grandmother has dementia. Grandmother shouts at me because she has dementia not because she does not like me. By telling children the truth and the facts about dementia, they can better understand the situation. Often their imaginings and own explanations are much worse than the truth.
But is this is something that should be taught at nursery school, primary school and lower secondary school? Well, it shouldn’t necessarily be part of the class curriculum, but there are many subjects and themes that nursery school, primary school and lower secondary school children are taught because of the general learning objectives relating to their education. The teacher may indeed choose to cover topics like dementia if it suits the learning programme.
For example, it may be the lessons will cover subjects like invisible handicaps, relationships and family, being part of society, or biology, where you learn about the function of the brain. Older classes can included it when looking at inequality in health, ethics in relation to monitoring people and the topic of stigmatisation and use of language in the media. 25 classes chose to use the teaching material and they used them in different ways:
As part of the complementary learning programmes.
They have a nursing home next to the school and therefore often see people with dementia in the street.
They had handicaps as a subject.
They had inequality in society as a subject.
Some of them knew that there were pupils in the class who had loved ones with dementia and that their classmates and they themselves needed to know something about the subject. Often in collaboration with the parents.
Material for children to learn about dementia has been devised previously. However, this material was primarily focused on children who had a relative with dementia. At the same time, most of the material was aimed at the youngest classes. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself. But if you shall teach a class where perhaps only one child in the class has a close relative with dementia, this can be a slightly ineffective approach. The other children in the class have a different need for the knowledge. They will not be able to talk about how difficult it is when grandfather has dementia. But they will find it interesting to know what dementia is. There is a link to the material that already exists, or as mentioned, it is available as extra material under the different school age groups. This means that you as the teacher can see if there is existing material that you can use as supplementary or substitute material.
The aim of this material is to create subject matter that is informative, explains what dementia is, what it feels like to have dementia and how you can help. All of the material is aimed at nursery school children, primary school pupils and lower secondary school pupils. In this way the material can also help the younger generations to break down the taboo and ignorance that often surrounds dementia.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells, caused by a range of specific medical conditions. It is fatal and it is not a natural part of aging. These are crucial facts to know in order to understand what dementia is and what you can do to help people with dementia. But even so, eight out of ten Danes do not know that dementia leads to death – despite the fact that dementia is the fifth highest cause of death in Denmark. And over half of people in Denmark do not realise that dementia is caused by damage to brain cells, caused by a range of specific medical conditions. In fact, over half of people in Denmark state that they do not know anything or very little about dementia.
– Alzheimer Association.
Director at the Alzheimer Association, Nis Peter Nissen:
More and more people suffer from dementia and many of them face taboo and prejudice, which is most often based on ignorance. It is therefore crucial that we become better informed about dementia, so we can help people with dementia and their families to live their lives with dignity.
The Alzheimer Association is very actively focused on helping children and young people who have a family member who has dementia. As a teacher, if you meet children and young people who have a family member who has dementia, it is important to know that you can help with information. Not every municipality provides services in this area, but the Alzheimer Association can help by informing everyone what options are available. There are groups of young people who have a family member who has dementia, and groups of children who have a family member who has dementia, camps for young people, family camps and other good services that families dealing with dementia can use and benefit from. As a teacher, you can either personally contact the Alzheimer Association or inform the family that they can contact the Alzheimer Association and ask for information.
Tinna Klingberg, Development Coordinator at the Aalborg Municipality Dementia Knowledge Centre, was the project manager, author and developer of the material and taught the material to 25 primary and lower secondary classes.
"I have worked for 21 years in the field of dementia and in my leisure time I am a scout leader. The combination of professional knowledge and experience in the field of dementia, and my experience from my scout work with children’s different potential for following learning depending on their age groups, was the basis for my getting involved in this project.”
- Tinna Klingberg, Development Coordinator at the Aalborg Municipality Dementia Knowledge Centre.
In addition, Stine Marie Kirch Jacobsen and Fie Aksglæde Wognsen, sociology students and student workers at the Aalborg Municipality Dementia Knowledge Centre, have helped by carrying out evaluations at various stages. The evaluation has examined how the lessons unfold in primary and lower secondary schools and how the pupils receive and respond to the lessons. This was done through observational studies of the classes and using evaluation forms for the school teachers.
Based on the results of the surveys, it can be concluded that the teachers and pupils welcome the lessons. Teachers and pupils interact together in the lessons about the illness, and the material is used after the lessons have finished – teachers use the attached exercises and use them with great satisfaction in the ongoing lessons. - Extract from the evaluation report.
With regard to further qualifying the material, a survey of a group of young people with parents who have dementia was carried out. The survey asked, for example, what do they think is the best help for the pupil's in the class who have a relative (has parent or grandparent, or a close friend) who has dementia? They also stated what they thought a teacher should do to help and support these children – and what they themselves needed. Their answers have, among other things, formed the basis for the article for teachers called “How do I support and help children whose lives are affected by dementia?”.
Lene Thorhauge, school consultant for learning and pedagogy at Aalborg Municipality school management has been a great help along the way. She has made sure that the material is compatible with the learning objectives that exist for the different class age groups, and ensured general professionally educational input (in addition to talking with teachers who were visited and their responses to the questionaries).
The Playmakers in Aalborg Municipality have helped to ensure that this teaching service for nursery schools, primary schools and lower secondary schools has been accessible to teachers. The playmakers are the people behind AabenAalborg.dk: The aim of AabenAalborg.dk is to:
Ensure all children and young people in Aalborg Municipality receive more extensive and varied educational and learning services
Centralise and raise the profile of all educational and learning services for day care nurseries, primary and lower secondary schools, and upper secondary education schools
Make it easier for staff to find and book educational and learning services
Provide insight into the diversity of learning services and open up for varied learning processes
A big thank you must go to the classes and their teachers who have used the service. A total of 25 school classes from various age groups were taught about dementia.