Tips for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers

bats halloween dementia

Sitting at home and thinking yeah really, how do I do that with the Coronavirus? Hopefully these 25+ tips and ideas focusing on supporting your loved one with dementia should inspire you!

The safest answer with the Coronavirus is to stay at home and celebrate there.  So this blog is going to focus on tips for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers for you and your family.

Whatever you decide to do as a caregiver and also a family member be mindful of the person you’re caring for with dementia.

How Halloween can affect someone with dementia

Halloween Pumpkins

The spookiest time for Halloween gatherings and events is usually early to late evening. That’s right smack bang in the middle of the time most people with dementia experience sundowning.  So you may see agitation, and anxiety already without the added stress of Halloween with trick or treaters.

When you add in the strange/loud noises, scary costumes, decorations, fireworks, fake blood etc, it can REALLY be scary for someone with dementia. 

Someone with dementia may perceive someone dressed up as a ghost, or covered in blood with an axe in the head, or wearing a scary mask to be REAL and frightening.  It can be really scary if someone is incessantly knocking on your front door and running away.

If your loved one has trouble recognising family members already, imagine how much more difficult that would be in costumes and masks!

So I’d be extremely careful with decorations, spooky sounds, fake blood, costumes and masks. All these things could be perceived to be harmful, cause stress, confusion and be frightening for somebody with dementia.

Coronavirus Risks vs Fun

Children want to celebrate Halloween and are getting excited about it, the thought of all that candy/sweets.  I mean who wouldn’t be at that age! 

Yet you are also a caregiver to a relative living with dementia who may be challenged by Halloween.

We need to find a balance between risk and fun for a Coronavirus Safe Halloween this season 

On the plus side, you may not have as many trick or treaters knocking on your door due to the Coronavirus!

This could be a blessing for you as a caregiver and also for the person with dementia however there’s no guarantee so we need to PREPARE

So what can you do to prepare yourself and your loved one? 

Preparation

preparation is key

The first tip for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers is to prepare your kids & your loved one with dementia.

Start by explaining to them what to expect this Halloween so they know what’s happening and they are not surprised or disappointed in the day.

I prepare my mum beforehand in situations where I’m concerned that she may get anxious.  Then, she understands what might happen.  I might have to repeat it but she does hear it and somehow that does help.  

So try that – you know your loved one best, so go with what you know works.  You may be living with someone completely independent so then it could just be reassurance and being included and involved in activities.

Or you could be living with someone who is in more need and in that case setting up a calm situation for that night might be best.

Therefore, the kind of things that  you can do will depend on how INDEPENDENT they are, the STAGE of dementia. Do they want to participate or just avoid all the noise and distractions?

So here are a few tips for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers for your family & those living with dementia.

Halloween Ideas for Dementia 

Pumpkin 31 October

Get everyone involved and make it a family fun event but be mindful of your loved one with dementia!  Here are some Halloween ideas for dementia. (Most governments recommend you stay at home and celebrate Halloween in your bubble)

  • First, explain – it’s Halloween and to expect a lot of noise but be reassured it’s nothing to worry about.
  • If your relative lives alone, either get them to join your social bubble or have someone go to them so that they have company and reassurance for the evening.
  • Decorate your home with non-scary decorations. Halloween themed doormats, lighting or things that make ghostly sounds all need to be limited so as not to scare your loved one.  
  • Avoid using real candles as a possible fire hazard
  • Why not get the kids and your loved one to help out and prepare non-scary hanging decorations, like bunting in Halloween colours, or making paper chains, or simply helping to blow up balloons.
  • Prepare arts and crafts for Halloween like pipe stick figures or paintings of pumpkins, using autumn leaves as stencils or creating a collage etc
  • Tidy up by clearing things off the floor that could be a tripping hazard
  • If you can’t decorate the main living area, then do it in the kids’ bedroom or den, fill it with toys and decorations for the kids to celebrate Halloween
  • Why not set up a treasure hunt in the house and garden? (careful of tripping hazards)
  • Bake cookies and other treats & spend time together decorating them
  • Instead of carving a pumpkin why not pick a few small ones and decorate them with stickers or paint them together
  • Why not get some playdough and start to create some weird and wonderful shapes together
  • You must have candy, so let’s prepare some small bags of sweets (to hide for a treasure hunt) or if you’re going to put some outside for trick or treaters. (Be careful that your loved one with dementia is not sneakily eating them all and be wary of choking hazards)

How to Reduce Stress & Anxiety for someone with Dementia during Halloween

You know your person, will they get agitated or scared by loud noises, scary costumes decorations etc, If the answer to that is Yes, then you want to implement a calm and relaxed routine for the Halloween evening. 

  • Spend the evening with them f they’re alone. Make sure to respect social distancing rules if outside your bubble. Sanitise anything you bring and wear a mask if worried)
  • Leave a bucket of candy with help yourself sign or put a sign on the door saying no trick or treaters here if you don’t want people knocking the door all night
  • If your main living area is too close to the front door, move to a quieter room at the back of the house if possible
  • Sit and chat – reminiscing about the best Halloween evenings they’ve ever had
  • Bring out the photo albums reminisce about your family
  • Play cards, or watch a favourite sport on TV, most TV shows have a catch-up facility to replay recent and even historic sporting events!
  • Listen to some of their favourite night time calming music and if it’s particularly noisy get a pair of headphones out with a splitter and listen together!
  • If it’s just the two of you, then get on zoom, facetime, and chat to other family members over a cup of tea and biscuits!
  • Turn on a favourite movie and watch that together  – nothing scary!
  • Leave a light on so that burglars don’t try to take advantage
  • If you are concerned about wandering then throw a sheet over the door to camouflage it

Most importantly, is being there, a reassuring calm familiar presence that will hopefully relax or reduce the anxiety that a loved one may experience during Halloween.

Tips for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers – Going out

Trick or Treat

If you are going to go out, have a plan to make sure you are protected.  Talk to your neighbours, stay in your local area and respect the signs in the windows of houses who don’t want to be bothered.

Trick or Treating at other houses

First, agree with your neighbours beforehand whether you will actually approach houses to trick to treat or not!

If you don’t want to approach houses, but you still want to go trick and treating then:

  • Talk to your neighbours and agree on a Halloween sign like a pumpkin to be placed in their window to indicate who’s involved
    • It becomes a game, treasure hunt for the children to find the signs in the windows
    • Once they find a sign, instead of approaching the house, you get the kids to take sweets from a bucket that you’re carrying
    • It allows for your kids to stay safe, see other kids (social distanced) in all their wonderful Halloween outfits and still enjoy the occasion.

If you do want to approach houses and go trick and treating then:

  • Agree on a route with your neighbours and prepare sweets in separate bags for trick & treat outside their home
  • Stay safe by not mixing outside of your social bubble.
  • Advise your kids to only take wrapped sweets outside other people’s home and sanitise after
  • Maintain social distance rules
  • Make sure you are wearing proper face masks not just Halloween masks (some shops will sell Halloween masks that are safe for protecting you against the coronavirus)

And……finally a quick word about Fireworks

Sparklers

I’ve already noticed fireworks going off in the evenings.  It can be scary for anyone especially when you’re not expecting them or when they are set off close to your home.  But it can be particularly distressing for someone with dementia.

My mum gets very frightened when they are set off so late at night.  She worries about whether something has exploded in the house or even that someone is shooting at us!

Fireworks can be particularly scary especially for war veterans with dementia as it may remind them of distressing times during the war.  

It takes time to calm somebody down so try to limit their exposure, forewarning that these events are happening, moving to a quieter room at the back of the house and using headphones can all help reduce anxiety and stress. 

Stay Safe

…….And finally, whatever you do this Halloween, the important thing is to stay safe.   

Keep your loved ones with dementia safe from any anxiety, confusion or stress. 

Keeping yourself and your loved ones safe from the Coronavirus 

The best thing you can do is be with your loved one for this Halloween especially if they are alone.

Stay at home and celebrate with your bubble!

Happy Halloween!

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