Tips for Halloween and DementiaWho doesn’t love autumn, the air is crisp and warm and spectacular fall colors are on display. This time of year we receive allot of emails and questions about the holidays and how to handle the new stress that comes with it. Halloween is one of those holidays that can be challenging and preparation and thought should go into this holiday.

Home care family and staff face the same challenges and dilemmas as facility staff with regards to agitation and fear as a result of scary costumes, extra visitors, candy concerns, Halloween decorations and Halloween sounds. You have to decide what is appropriate for each individual on a case by case basis. For some the festivities are a joyous time and for others even the simple sweet act of attending children’s costume parade can be over whelming and terrifying.

For the home care situation if you feel that the constant ringing of the door bell is just too much for the care giver and the family member than by all means turn your lights off to discourage people from coming to your home. Or if you want to participate in the festivities place a bowl of candy at front door with a note “Please take one”. Most facilities have extra guests, children from the community coming in costume and staff Halloween parades. Some patients will enjoy the events and others may shy away. Here are a few tips to consider for this year’s Halloween week.

Tips for Halloween and Dementia

  1. Be realistic about your expectations for Halloween and the individual stress threshold.
  2. Discuss your plans for the holiday with the individual. If you are attending a party or a Halloween parade discuss what will be taking place. Don’t go into a lot of detail.
  3. Be prepared to alter your plans such as replacing a Halloween costume parade with a fall foliage ride or a visit to a local pumpkin patch. Go at a time when it is not crowded.
  4. Avoid using candles and instead use non flame candles or lights.
  5. Put pumpkins and mums up on tables to avoid tripping
  6. If you find the individual picking at window decorations remove or take down
  7. Limit decorations. They may cause confusion and agitation.
  8. Avoid floor mats that make sounds and scary decorations that are voice activated.
  9. Avoid using tapes and CD’s with creaking doors, ghost screaming and other scary sounds.
  10. Try non scary decorations like pumpkins and fall leaves vs. scary ghost, goblins and witches.
  11. Consider not using scary sounds but instead try Halloween songs.
  12. Limit sugar intake such as candy because sugar increases their desire for more sugar and then which diminishes their desire for healthy snacks. Instead offer fruit. Or even a caramel apple.
  13. Keep the candy tucked away until the night of Halloween to limit consumption.
  14. If the individual is not over whelmed encourage them to hand out the candy to the children. But supervise at all times to avoid elopement or other risky behaviors.
  15. If you don’t want the door bell ringing, as an alternative try placing candy outside in a bowl, with a sign that says “please take one” but don’t count on that happening… just sayin.
  16. Create new memories by baking a pumpkin pie, decorating sugar cookies, painting a pumpkin or carving a pumpkin with children or other people. You can obtain wonderful stencils on line or from your local craft store.
  17. Lots of great craft ideas such as; stencil candy bags, fill candy bags, paint gourds and mini pumpkins, place fall flowers in vases, paint paper placemats with Halloween themed pictures.
  18. Contact your junior women’s club and arrange for the toddlers to parade in costume and let the seniors hand out candy
  19. If the individual can read, contact a local preschool and read a story to the children.

An article in Bellaonline stated, Halloween can be tweaked and personalized to communicate a meaningful updated ritual. Both you and your loved one will enjoy the current anticipation as you tap into a positive memory of past celebrations. Make decorations together to maximize the occasion. Art therapy provides positive stimulation and creative self-expression. And while you are coloring and pasting, play music in the background, preferably from your loved one’s time period, for happiness synergy.