Halloween & Dementia: Halloween Safety Tips
The month of October comes along with a lot of scary images! We are surrounded by visions of zombies, spiders, violence, and more. Now, imagine you have dementia and you believe these images to be real!
Halloween and dementia: Why can it be a problem?
As we know with individuals living with dementia, everyone is different. The differences among each dementia journey are important to note because this scenario will not pertain to all individuals. However, some people living with dementia can have a negative response to Halloween. Let’s say you watch a movie, where there is a man that is breaking into a home.
This may be absorbed by your loved one as if it was happening in their OWN home. They may become agitated or stressed about this and rightfully so. This can create a lot of stress for both your loved one and yourself, as the caregiver. If you worry that your loved one may have an adverse response to scary things then try your best to avoid these things. I know this can be extremely hard when we see Halloween everywhere!
The most common issue
The most common issue I have experienced is believing TV shows and movies to be real. Even shows we would think would be positive can affect them negatively or can make them think something is wrong. I have witnessed someone not be able to watch The Office with their spouse because anytime the characters fight they believe that it is their loved one fighting with them.
It is important to remember that dementia often changes our loved one's preferences and in some cases, even their personality. We must adapt as we go with our loved ones and support them along this confusing journey.
Tips for Halloween and dementia safety: What to avoid
Try to keep your loved one focused on things that are not so frightening. I recommend only giving out candy earlier in the evening when there are smaller children trick or treating. When it gets later, leave a bowl of candy out for the rest of the night to avoid constant stimulation/chaos with people coming to the door.
If you cannot avoid certain things that are scary or overstimulating in the neighborhood, do your best to redirect them, distract them or when in doubt make light of the situation. Also, try not to disagree with them since it may increase their agitation. I highly recommend providing
your loved one with an object to focus on that is a comfort such as a pet or stuffed animal when you are unable to avoid these scarier situations.
Allow trick-or-treaters in the early evening, leave a bowl out when dark
Redirect their attention, do another activity as a distraction
Remove them from any atmosphere that may trigger anxiety, fear, or confusion
Give them a comfort item such as a pet, blanket, food, or photo album
Avoid scary indoor and outdoor decorations
If you plan to wear a costume, make sure you are still recognizable
What if my loved one enjoys Halloween and scary things?
Now if your loved one has always enjoyed scary things and is not having a problem, by all means, go for it, and enjoy yourself! Be aware that your loved one's preferences may change. This means they may not fit the mold of who they used to be when it comes to Halloween.
Other fall activities
There is still a lot of fun that can be had around the Halloween season without all the spooky stuff. A few family-friendly activities you could try are going to a pumpkin patch, apple picking, trunk or treat events, pumpkin decorating, and watching silly Halloween movies.
Recommended read: 12 Fun Fall Activities for Caregivers and their Loved Ones
Read more about Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Carrie Aalberts, AKA Dementia Darling has a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus in Gerontology (study of aging) and is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She has 10 years of experience as a professional caregiver and now serves caregivers and their loved ones by providing education, support, and resources. She is currently the Director of an adult daycare center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Carrie wants to be a supportive friend for those who are going through this difficult journey, whether you yourself have dementia or love someone with dementia.