Halloween can be a great holiday for some but overwhelming for others, particularly those with dementia. One way to handle that is to create engagement and reduce fears by focusing on tailored Halloween activities for dementia, seniors & the elderly.
We need to find Halloween activities that are safe, fun and engaging AND pick the right time to do them! Try to avoid times when sundowning issues may occur and heighten their anxiety. Try activities earlier in the day that can involve the kids as well, a source of happiness for most of our loved ones!
Remember to give your loved ones time and space, allow them to mess up, be patient and if they don’t want to take part, so be it; then find something else they’ll enjoy more. But for those looking for ideas for Halloween Activities for dementia, then read on!
Be aware that people with dementia may have difficulty with visual perceptions, sounds, spatial awareness etc. You can find ideas and tips on creating a safer environment by checking out this article – 13 Tips for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers.
1. No Carve Pumpkin Ideas
Pumpkins are a staple at Halloween, but instead of carving them we can just decorate the pumpkin and avoiding issues with sharp knives. There are so many ways to decorate – painting, using stick-on pieces, wrapping with materials, tights, lace etc., adding features like tinsel hair, drawing on eyes and a mouth etc., or using household items like tin foil to create a personalised pumpkin etc. The video below has excellent some ideas on how to decorate a no carve pumpkin this October for one of many fun Halloween activities for dementia:-
2. DIY Halloween Treat Bags
Why not make your own trick-or-treat bags and fill them. You can have a lot of fun making them, cheekily sampling the the products! Just be be careful if your loved one has swallowing/choking issues.
3. DIY Halloween Decorations
Making your own Halloween decorations can help save money, engage your loved ones, and remove any fear they may have of them. You could even start a conveyor belt of creating decorations where one person takes control of making part of it – like drawing out the shapes, cutting the card, colouring in etc.
You can make bunting in Halloween colours, paper chains, halloween cards or simply helping blow up balloons? Whatever your loved one would enjoy!
4. Halloween Art
I know my mother enjoy arts and crafts, we can extend that to Halloween themed crafts like pipe stick figures or paintings of pumpkins, using autumn leaves as stencils or creating a collage etc. These can all help those with dementia, seniors, and the elderly activate their brains, help with hand and eye coordination and connect with tactile materials.
Why not try getting the paints out, glitter, and tactile materials to make your own Halloween posters together. Or you can simply print off free Halloween colouring pages to colour in together.
5. Halloween Games
Playing simple games like Halloween Bingo, Halloween Word Search, and Halloween I spy as a family can help distract, engage and be a lot of fun, depending on how your loved one feels about games as one of the Halloween activities for dementia!
You can download this free Halloween Word Sheet and Answer sheet PDF.
6. Decorating Cupcakes/Cookies
Baking is a popular pastime during Halloween. You can make Halloween-themed cookies and cupcakes by decorating them with Halloween colours. This is something that those with dementia, seniors and the elderly can do sitting down.
Why not make life easier and just buy the cupcakes, skip the baking and get straight onto the decorating? You can purchase ready-filled pipping bags, get assorted coloured sprinkles, etc. Here are a few simple ideas for decorating cupcakes in the video below.
7. Virtual Get Together
If your loved one can’t be with you and you want to keep them reassured. Get together on a zoom, facetime, duo, or echo show party and share tales of your past Halloweens or what you used to do as kids.
If they are wearing headphones it could help drown out the sounds outside the home.
If you don’t want your loved one to be disturbed at home then you can print out these no trick or treat poster and stick it up on the front door or window.
8. Get Out Into Nature
Get out of the house – go for a walk, collect the falling leaves, chestnuts or conkers, pines, small branches etc.
Go on a scavenge hunt somewhere easier to walk without fear of falling and accessible by wheelchair/mobility aids. Just getting out can help with sundowning later, and you’ll have collected things you can use to make things later.
Simple things like sorting out sweets/ candy and helping with sewing pieces on a DIY Halloween costume can be activities that can be purposeful for someone with dementia.
Start reminiscing about their past to help lower their anxiety, and maybe bring in a fidget cushion/blanket to settle their hands (we’ve got a great post on how to make one here) or a dementia doll if they have one.
Always check on your loved one and ensure they are still enjoying the activities. If they show signs of being overwhelmed or distressed, then change the activity & location, move to a smaller room with fewer people and pull out an old photo album.
Whatever you decide to do this Halloween, remember to make those Halloween activities for them fun!