Are you worried about your loved one with dementia this Halloween? Need some helpful tips, so you both enjoy Halloween this October? Read on for some tips for a safe Halloween for dementia caregivers!
Halloween can be a scary time for someone with dementia, the noise, coming and goings, the doorbell ringing continuously, and fireworks going off more etc., can unsettle some people living with dementia. Here are a few tips that can help reduce risks, allow you to support your loved one, provide a safe & secure environment and/ or encourage safe, fun participation on Halloween.
Let’s get to it!
Tips for Halloween for Dementia that can reduce distress
- The first tip for a safe Halloween for dementia caregivers is to prepare your kids & your loved ones with dementia. Start by explaining what to expect this Halloween, so they know what’s happening and are not surprised or disappointed in the day.
- Rule of thumb if it’s scary for your kids, it’s more than likely to scare your loved one with dementia, so think about what changes you can make to mitigate that.
- Try to involve your loved one in preparations for the day. This helps in two ways keeping the holiday in the forefront of their minds and providing meaningful activity & interactions with the family. Read this article on ideas for 10 Fun activities for Halloween for dementia.
- Make sure that they are not alone at home. If they don’t live with you, invite them over or go to them to help reassure someone. It can be particularly distressing if you have kids knocking on your door late at night and running away or fireworks going off around your house that can sound like explosions.
- Tidy up by clearing things off the floor that could be a tripping hazard, anything someone could slip on, or low-hanging decorations like fake cobwebs can all contribute to falls, so remove them. Be careful with dark Halloween doormats, as someone with dementia may visually perceive them as black holes. Cover doorways with blankets if you have issues with wandering.
- Talk to your neighbours & agree with them beforehand about which houses will be approached for children to be able to trick or treat and help create a safe Halloween for dementia.
- Put a sign on the door saying no trick-or-treaters here if you don’t want people knocking on the door.
- If you’re concerned with the doorbell ringing all night, then disable it, take out the batteries of the ringer where you can
- or leave a bucket of sweets/candy with help yourself sign rather than have people knocking.
- Scary costumes & face painting can cause distress if you’re loved one is staying with you. Can they be toned down at all? Imagine an axe to the head with blood for someone with dementia who cannot perceive that it isn’t real. That can be extremely terrifying for your loved one, and that shock could last longer than one night, so think about what’s more important.
- Try limiting decorations to one room in the home and the outside front door area. Alternatively, if you can’t restrict decorations, why not try less scary decorations like Halloween bunting, balloons etc.?
- Don’t use real candles as possible fire hazards, especially around decorations & costumes. These can easily be knocked over.
- Avoid using lighting strobes, flashing lights, or even fake smoke machines, as they can disorient someone with dementia. Close the curtains to prevent lights or fireworks from outside being seen.
- Choose music that isn’t too loud or a genre that isn’t too distressing where possible. There are many organisations that can help you make a playlist for your loved one dementia, some may even help you find music for Halloween for dementia, one organisation I can recommend is Playlist for Life
- Are you planning to watch a movie? Please choose carefully; at some stage, someone with dementia may think that what they are watching is real. Horror movies are best avoided. Choose a comedy Halloween movie like, for example, Beetlejuice or sing along musical could be fun for this Halloween for dementia.
- If you know your loved one with dementia will get distressed no matter what you do, then move them from the main room and settle in a back room with less access to noise or visually scary items where they can be comforted.
You may only need to provide reassurance or company for the night if your loved one with dementia lives an independent lifestyle. They might want to participate by giving out sweets/candy or even going on Halloween trick-or-treating. That’s for them to decide. We can only be there to support them and not take over their lives – to be the dementia caregivers they need.
Not every tip will work, don’t be disheartened; keep looking for ways to support your loved one and create a safe Halloween for dementia. Good luck!