NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Halloween is creeping up on us, but there are some things to avoid doing for those who are living with dementia-related illnesses to keep them safe and comfortable.
According to a news release from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), there are at least three things to do and three things to not do this holiday.
“Halloween can be very challenging and stressful for someone with dementia because of how these illnesses impact the brain. Scary sights, frightful sounds, and costumed strangers knocking on the door can cause anxiety, fear, and agitation,” said AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services, Jennifer Reeder, LCSW. “Taking a few simple steps can help families and friends keep the ‘Happy’ in ‘Happy Halloween’ for their loved ones with dementia on October 31.”
Caregivers can follow these three DOs and three DON’Ts to make Halloween more dementia-friendly:
- Proactively address stress. The night is full of noise, costumes, and strangers, which are frightening for someone living with dementia. Playing relaxing music, participating in a quiet activity like reading a book, and providing verbal and physical reassurance can decrease any agitation or distress. If you think it’s appropriate, you can explain the nature of Halloween.
- Adapt the celebration. You can replace candy with fruit or other healthy snacks, as too much sugar intake can increase agitation. You can also reminisce by looking at old photographs from past Halloweens, painting pumpkins, or watching non-threatening programs about Halloween. You should focus on what they can, and choose to, do now rather than what they have been able to do before the onset of dementia.
- Leave the lights on. Keep inside and outside lights on for safety. You can keep candy outside the door for trick-or-treaters with a ‘please take one’ sign.
- Use interactive or scary decorations. Anything that can talk or scream when it’s approached, as well as things with flashing or flickering lights. These things can frighten them and cause them to wander off. Fake skeletons, monsters, witches, cobwebs, and tombstones can also be scary, choose to decorate with pumpkins and fall leaves.
- Leave loved ones alone to give out candy. Having dressed-up strangers knocking on the door all the time can be frightening and disorienting for someone living with dementia. It also poses a safety risk. If they want to interact by handing out candy, make sure there is someone around to help. There could also be an appropriate, non-threatening celebration happening at a community center in the neighborhood.
- Invite trick-or-treaters into the house. This poses safety issues and further disorientation. Unless the person at the door is someone you know, don’t let people inside the house. You can have a small number of friends, family, or neighbors stop by and come inside for refreshments if your loved one enjoys the holiday and wants to participate.
If you are a family member or a caregiver for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease and have questions, you can contact AFA’s Helpline by phone (866) 232-8484, text message (646) 586-5283, or webchat to speak with a licensed social worker.