Navigating the Halloween Season

Do you love Halloween? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Halloween is the nation’s second most popular holiday (Christmas holds the top spot).

Though Halloween is a beloved tradition, it creates unique challenges for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. For those who suffer from confusion, disorientation and other symptoms, Halloween can be a truly frightening holiday.

If you’re looking after an older adult who suffers from one of these cognitive conditions, here are a few things to keep in mind.

When Older Adults Live Alone

It’s an unfortunate reality that people prey on seniors who live alone during Halloween. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia and is still independent enough to live alone at home, do these things to keep your loved one safe.

Keep the lights on. Turning off all the lights will create the impression that no one is home, which could entice burglars or vandals. Instead, turn on the lights inside the house. If your loved one who lives alone insists on giving out candy, turn on the porch light and leave the treats outside with a sign that reads “Please Take One.”

Don’t invite people in. Never invite a trick-or-treater inside the home unless you know the person well. Halloween is a very popular night for people to dress up in costumes or take young children around the neighborhood with the underlying intent of evaluating homes as targets for future crimes.

Help your loved one pass out candy. Even if your loved one is in the early stages of the disease and is relatively self-reliant, if he or she insists on passing out candy, don’t allow him or her to do this alone. Again, it’s not your loved one who is the concern, it’s those who may seek to take advantage of a frail older person who lives alone.

Tips for a Happier Halloween

If your loved one is less self-reliant, these tips will help you reduce stress, anxiety, and confusion during the Halloween season.

Keep decorations to a minimum. Decorations that change the look of the house may lead to anxiety and confusion.

Avoid the scary Halloween doormat. If it scares a 6-year-old, it will scare a person with dementia.

Don’t put out a fake cemetery and hanging goblins in the front yard. Decorations may get you in the holiday spirit, but don’t be surprised when your loved one refuses to walk in or out of the house.

Avoid the nighttime use of flashlights, candles, and light-up pumpkins. The eerie glow that they cast can lead to anxiety for a person living with dementia.

Stay away from the malls and “trunk or treat” events. These community celebrations may be a safer way for children to enjoy the holiday, but for a person with dementia, they add to the confusion and anxiety.

Put the candy in a safe place. Avoid leaving the treats by the front door. Your loved one may not remember that he or she has dietary restrictions. Save yourself a trip to the hospital and keep the candy in a safe place.

Avoid the sound effects. Halloween sounds like ghostly laughter or creaking doors are too stimulating for people living with dementia.

Halloween can be a fun family celebration. Just be prepared to tweak and personalize your plans to create a meaningful updated ritual as you tap into a positive memory of past celebrations.