Families in neighborhoods all across the country typically celebrate Halloween with their own unique traditions. Decorating their homes and yards, hosting a party, donning spooky costumes, and going trick-or-treating are just a few. It’s generally a fun night for all.
For adults with Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, however, the night can be anything but fun. Because their cognitive abilities may be impaired by the disease, a senior with dementia might not be able to distinguish fantasy from reality.
While witches, ghosts, and goblins are standard sightings on Halloween, they can be frightening for someone with Alzheimer’s. Family caregivers should know their loved one is likely to become confused, fearful, and anxious, depending on the stage of their disease. They may also be at higher risk of wandering from home.
As you are planning your Halloween activities, use these tips to keep a family member with dementia safer.
Some families and neighborhoods plan all year for Halloween decorating. It’s become a really big deal in this country. In fact, experts believe 80 million people a year decorate for this seasonal event, spending an estimated $2.6 billion!
If creating spooky home and yard scenes is part of your tradition, try seeing things through your loved one’s eyes this year. People with dementia might have trouble distinguishing make-believe decorations, like coffins, skulls, spiders, and bats, from reality. Seasonal décor that pops up or makes loud noises can be especially frightening.
While it might not be as exciting, it’s probably safer to change your theme a bit while a senior with dementia is part of your household. Opt instead for decorations like mums, hardy-weather pansies, pumpkins, gourds, and cornstalks.
As is true of most holidays, stores decorate for Halloween well in advance of the big day. The beverage section of your favorite grocery store might be transformed into a haunted aisle, or you might find enormous spiders placed near the checkout counter. It’s easy to overlook these public decorations when you are busy reviewing your shopping list.
If your family member with dementia usually accompanies you on errands and shopping trips, it’s a good idea to be more mindful of your surroundings than you might usually be. Keep an eye out for seasonal decorations and spooky music and costumes that might frighten your loved one.
Halloween night likely presents the greatest challenge to keeping a senior with dementia calm and safe. Trick-or-treaters constantly ringing the doorbell can be confusing for them. And opening the front door, only to find people in scary costumes on the doorstep, can be disorienting and downright frightening.
During your neighborhood’s trick-or-treat, consider asking a friend or family member to spend time with your senior loved one during those hours. They might be able to watch an old movie together, look through favorite family photos, or even engage in a craft project. The idea is to keep the adult with dementia otherwise occupied.
If the weather permits, you may want to sit outside to hand out candy to avoid constant ringing of the doorbell. If that isn’t an option, hang a sign on the door asking visitors to knock instead.
Depending on how advanced the senior’s dementia is, you may want to invest in a mobile monitoring unit. If they become frightened and wander from home during Halloween festivities, it might be tough for them to find their way back. An emergency alert system will allow them to press a button to summon help. Call 1-844-203-5617 to learn more today!