How to talk to children about dementia

Professor Ralph Martins AO, Maggie Beer AM, Sally Yule and Cheryl Orsinin at the book launch of Dancing with Memories, a book to help children understand dementia

With her beautiful new book, Dancing with Memories, author Sally Yule wants to help children understand dementia. Join her for a special reading and Q&A in September, as part of the Montefiore Spotlight Series.

“I am Lucy and I dance with memories. Sometimes I remember, and sometimes I forget.” This is our introduction to the central character in Dancing with Memories. She lives with dementia and its challenges. But Lucy continues to take joy in her family, her community and her treasured memories.

Personal experiences

Having spent 30 years in the aged care sector, author Sally Yule has a great deal of experience working with people living with dementia. However, she gained a new perspective when her parents, Wendy and Bob, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia. “Our family works together with a care team to support my parents at home. I’ve watched the great grandchildren – curious, observant five- and six-year-olds – engage with Mum and Dad, and deal with confusion and a changed relationship.”

Explaining dementia to children

While there is plenty written for adults about understanding dementia, Sally couldn’t find many options for children. She’d always wanted to write a children’s book, so she decided to create something to help kids understand older family members’ experience with dementia.

“I didn’t want to sugar coat it, but write something with hope and love, focused on more than just deficits.” She enlisted friend and renowned dementia expert Professor Ralph Martins AO to provide a Q&A for the book explaining the science and medical side. He introduced Sally to food personality and aged care advocate Maggie Beer AM, who contributed recipes to promote brain health. “How can you not be in love with this book?” asked Maggie at the launch. “Food, love, empathy, joy – they’re all tied together.”

Empowering through stories

Lucy dances off the page thanks to Cheryl Orsini’s illustrations. “I had a vivid picture of her in my mind from the beginning,” she says. “It was a beautiful project. It meant a lot to me coming from a family where four generations lived together at home.”

Ultimately, Dancing with Memories is about starting a conversation with children, says Sally, and empowering them to understand and engage with people with dementia.

Montefiore will present a reading and Q&A with Sally and Cheryl this month for Jewish primary schools with a special Spotlight Series session available from September 13. Other schools and community members are welcome to join with their children.

Buy the paperback or ebook at

Cover art and sneak peek at children's book Dancing with Memories. The book helps start a conversation with children about dementia