Tips to help those with dementia get through Halloween

JACKSON, Tenn. — The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has shared tips to everyone have a dementia-Friendly Halloween.

“Like with many other traditions, there are adaptations families can make to help their relatives living with dementia have a safe and enjoyable Halloween,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational & Social Services. “We encourage caregivers to follow a few quick and easy steps to keep the ‘Happy’ in ‘Happy Halloween’ on October 31.”

The organization’s news release says to:

  • Avoid exposure to interactive decorations.  Decorations that talk or scream when someone passes by, as well as those with flashing or flickering lights, can be frightening for someone living with dementia and could cause them to wander away, even from their own home.  Fake skeletons, cobwebs, witches and monsters, even if non-interactive, can also be upsetting and scary.
  • Help the person relax. Halloween is full of distractions and stimuli, which can upset or frighten someone living with dementia. Play relaxing music, engage in a quiet activity such as reading a book together, and provide soothing reassurance: all these are ways to help decrease agitation or distress.
  • Adapt the celebration. Give your loved one healthy snacks, such as fruit, instead of candy. Too much sugar intake could increase agitation. Reminisce by looking at old family pictures of Halloween events or watch a non-threatening program about Halloween if they seem to want to participate.
  • Don’t leave your loved one alone to give out candy.  Having costumed strangers continually knocking on the door could be frightening, confusing and/or disruptive to someone living with a dementia-related illness. It can also be a safety risk. If the person wants to participate in giving out candy, have someone there to help or arrange for the person to go to a relative or friend’s house to engage with trick or treaters.
  • Keep the lights on in your home.  A dark home gives the impression that no one is inside, making it more inviting for burglars or vandals. Have interior and exterior lights on.  Keep candy outside your door for trick-or-treaters with a sign that says “Please Take One.”

They add that you can reach their helpline by calling  (866) 232-8484 or visiting online at www.alzfdn.org.

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