Halloween is right around the corner, but it doesn't have to be a scary season for your loved one with Alzheimer's and dementia. Follow these tips to stay safe.
Halloween is an exciting and fun time for most people, but for someone with dementia, it may be overwhelming and cause anxiety and fear. Depending on the stage of dementia, unexpected visitors, scary costumes, and loud and eerie sounds may trigger anxiety and even fill seniors who have dementia with terror.
Seniors with dementia have a harder time distinguishing reality from fiction, and instead of seeing their grandchild in a little zombie costume, they may think the living dead is really in their sitting room.
Halloween celebrations are often unavoidable. The neighbors across the street are going to take extra care in making the scariest decorations possible, the children next door are going to come trick-or-treating, and around the corner, there’s going to be a Halloween costume parade. Halloween is going to happen all around you, and as a home caregiver or someone looking after a loved one, it may be difficult to navigate your way through this spooky season while taking care of someone with dementia.
With enough preparation, home caregivers will be able to keep seniors with dementia safe and comfortable while still having fun. Here are a few guidelines that may help you prepare for Halloween:
It’s best not to leave someone with dementia alone on Halloween. If you can’t spend the evening with your loved one, consider getting a home caregiver to help answer the door and keep them safe.
Fireworks can sound like gunshots, which can be really scary to anybody with dementia, but especially to a war veteran who may start to relive their past. If fireworks or loud noises are expected, a good idea may be to play their favorite music or an audio book through earphones to distract them from the noise.
During this season, programs on TV may be quite gruesome, so it is a good idea to screen all programs to make sure seniors with dementia are not unexpectedly ambushed with horrific scenes. Alternatively, movies can be played instead that seniors may enjoy.
Keep decorations to a minimum and avoid decorations that are scary or ones that make noises. Ideas of non-scary decorations include uncarved pumpkins and arrangements made out of fall leaves.
Candles and flashlights should be avoided as flashlights can cause a fright, and if tipped over, candles can cause a fire.
It’s advisable that public places where little zombies and witches are trick-or-treating be avoided.
Be prepared to change plans if necessary. Alternative things to do on Halloween include going on a fall foliage drive or visiting a pumpkin patch that is not too crowded.
Prepare seniors with dementia beforehand and explain that there will be more visitors and noises. Set them up with distractions, like playing their favorite movie or building a puzzle.
To avoid unnecessary ringing of the doorbell, a basket of candy can be left on the front porch with a note encouraging kids to help themselves to the candy. If you live in an area where this could cause a mess, consider turning off front lights to signal that you do not want to be disturbed.
Be sure to keep decorations from places where seniors with dementia may trip over them.
Keep an eye on the candy so that your loved one does not eat too much of it, especially if they have diabetes. Seniors with dementia often forget that they already had some candy, and they may end up eating too much and getting sick.
If your loved one is not overwhelmed with the costumes and chatter of the kids, encourage them to hand out candy to the children.
Halloween is the perfect time to form new memories. Ideas of things to do together include baking a pumpkin pie, decorating spooky sugar cookies, painting or carving pumpkin decorations, and making little bags filled with candy. This can also double as art therapy. Making decorations may have a positive, stimulating effect on seniors with dementia and help them express themselves creatively. And it’s fun!
Looking after someone with dementia on Halloween doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. With enough preparations, this time can be special, and everybody can still have fun.
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