Halloween Safety Tips When a Senior Has Alzheimer’s Disease

Halloween Safety Tips When a Senior Has Alzheimer’s Disease

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.

When the Sun Goes Down: How to Manage One of the Most Challenging Behaviors Caused by Alzheimer’s Disease

When the Sun Goes Down: How to Manage One of the Most Challenging Behaviors Caused by Alzheimer’s Disease

If you are a Michigan caregiver helping to provide for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, you may be witnessing this behavior and not know what it is. As the sun begins to set, restlessness, agitation and anxiety in a loved one peak. Just as a caregiver’s energy level is at its lowest, your loved one’s pacing and wandering begin. Sundowners Syndrome, also referred to as sundowning, is one of the most challenging behaviors for caregivers to manage. Estimates from The Alzheimer’s Association are that about 20 – 25% of those living with Alzheimer’s disease will experience sundowning.

How can families keep a loved one with sundowning safe?

One of the difficulties in managing this behavior is that the cause remains elusive. Alzheimer’s experts believe it is somehow tied to a disruption in sleep patterns. But there are some tactics that are commonly believed to help minimize the symptoms:

  • Plan your activity for each day in advance. Try to concentrate appointments and other activities that might be over-stimulating for early in the day.
  • Keep afternoons more low key including the noise level from the television or radio. Also consider limiting caffeine and sugar intake in the afternoon.
  • Consider taking a peaceful stroll around the neighborhood each day well before the sun begins to set. It will be good for you and for your loved one!
  • Some experts believe sundowning may be the result of unexpressed needs such as hunger, thirst or the need to use the restroom. So be sure your loved one has enough to eat and drink throughout the day and that you show them to the rest room at least every few hours.
  • This behavior often creates frustration for weary caregivers. But it is important not to lose your temper. Speak in a low voice and try to remain calm to avoid making the situation worse.
  • Pull the curtains and blinds well in advance of it becoming dark outside. Turn on all of the lights. This may help prevent your loved one from experiencing the anxiety that seems to be linked to dusky skies.
  • Consider the use of respite services a few times a month so you aren’t too tired to cope.

If you’d like to learn more about strategies for coping with Sundowners Syndrome, you can visit The Alzheimer’s Association Sleep Issues and Sundowning.

Is your loved one experiencing sundowning?

Have you found any approach that helps make it easier for them?

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