Halloween can present unique challenges for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Ghosts and goblins, jack-o’-lanterns and skeletons are fun for most of us, but the sights and sounds of this spooky season can agitate and confuse seniors with dementia. Loved ones with moderate and late-stage dementia will need to be sheltered from items and activities that might alarm them.

Halloween Safety and Dementia

Here are some tips to help you keep your senior in Michigan safe and anxiety free this Halloween:

  • Be realistic about much Halloween your senior with dementia can handle. Seniors with early Alzheimer’s disease can enjoy celebrations, but will likely need help with tasks like carving a pumpkin, making popcorn balls and packing treat bags.
  • Never leave a senior with Alzheimer’s alone during trick-or-treating hours. This may mean you or another loved one keeps them company or hands out candy with them at their door.
  • Limit the number of decorations. A house full of fake cobwebs and skulls may put you and your children in the holiday mood, but these types of décor can cause agitation and confusion for your senior with Alzheimer’s. If you do decide to decorate, avoid the fear factor. Items that move, talk or scream can frighten and cause a senior to wander.
  • Protect your senior loved one in public. While shopping and attending community events, avoid animated decorations, especially ones that jump, scream and scare unsuspecting people. Also steer away from costumed characters and people in masks.
  • Keep rooms well-lit during trick-or-treating hours. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, low light and shadows can trigger “sundowning” behaviors. Keep in mind that flashlights, flashing lights and flickering candlelight can also cause anxiety in seniors with dementia.

Tips for Soothing Alzheimer’s Agitation

If Halloween does agitate your loved one, use these strategies from the National Institute on Aging to calm them:

  • Change the environment. Guide your senior away from whatever environment is making them upset.
  • Comfort and reassure. Sit with your Alzheimer’s loved one. Talk softly and calmly and assure them that they are safe with you.
  • Create positive distractions. Play soothing music, read out loud or offer a snack.

To read more about celebrating holidays with your Alzheimer’s loved one in Michigan, visit the Alzheimer’s Association Holidays and Alzheimer’s Families webpage.

For more information about specialized dementia care, contact one of the Heritage Senior Communities near you.