Each October, families in communities across the country celebrate Halloween. Costumes, scary decorations, and trick-or-treat are each a part of this night of ghouls and goblins. But for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, the night can present safety challenges.
Ghosts, skeletons and zombies are fun Halloween sights for most of us. But scary celebrations can confuse and agitate people who have dementia. Loved ones with mid to late-stage dementia need to be protected from activities and decorations that might be frightening for them.
Safely Celebrating Halloween when a Senior has Dementia
Here are some tips to help you keep a senior with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia safe this Halloween.
Pay attention to Halloween decorations
While your family might have a tradition of going all out to decorate at Halloween, know that decorations can be confusing for people with dementia. They may have a hard time distinguishing make-believe coffins, skeletons, and ghosts from reality. A house full of skulls and fake eyeballs might get your family in the Halloween spirit, but they can easily create agitation and aggression in an older adult with Alzheimer’s.
Decorations that scream, howl, pop up from the ground, or fall from the ceiling can trigger episodes of wandering in seniors with Alzheimer’s. Consider limiting decorations to pumpkins and cornstalks and items that avoid the fear factor this year.
Be realistic about how much a loved one with dementia can safely handle
Halloween can provide your family with many opportunities for engaging in intergenerational activities together. But it is important to be mindful of how much your loved one can realistically handle.
While packing treat bags for trick-or-treaters might be a fun activity, carving a pumpkin might not be very safe. Instead, consider painting your pumpkins this year.
Protect a senior with Alzheimer’s when out and about in public near Halloween
As is true of most holidays, retail stores and businesses start the celebration early. This often means Halloween decorations go up in places such as the dentist’s office, the grocery store and even the bank. As you and your senior loved one run errands, be mindful of Halloween décor. While you might easily look past it, your loved one might not.
Plan ahead for Halloween night activities in your own neighborhood
Halloween night can be especially confusing and disorienting for a senior who has dementia. The costumes, noise, and confusion of having trick-or-treaters visit your home might cause anxiety and agitation for your loved one.
If your house will be a stop on the neighborhood’s trick-or-treat route, see if a loved one is available to entertain your family member in another area of the home during those hours.
Have soothing music available to play, as well as favorite snacks and beverages available. It might help to have busy work and projects to keep the senior preoccupied. A basket of towels to fold andrefold and a deck of cards to sort and resort are two examples.
Credits: MD for Seniors