Halloween is in a few days, an exciting time for kids & families, but it can be challenging for seniors with dementia. I wanted to share some last-minute tips for Halloween for seniors with dementia to make it safe and enjoyable for you & your loved ones.
Halloween can be a deeply unsettling and bewildering experience for seniors living with dementia. The combination of objects, costumes, noise, lights, and fireworks can trigger a range of complex emotions and perceptions. As their brains process these stimuli, the signals may become distorted, leading to fear, confusion, and anxiety. I know that Mum gets scared every Halloween, especially from fireworks and costumes, even some of the TV programs scare her, so we try to minimise exposure as much as possible. Unfortunately, we can’t do much about the fireworks!
We approach this by creating a supportive and calming environment, where we can help our loved ones have a great Halloween experience. This article provides a simplified checklist to help you focus on what to do and what to avoid to have a safe enjoyable Halloween for your loved one.
Last Minute Checklist: Tips for Halloween for Seniors with Dementia
|Tips for a Safe Halloween||How to Make It Spooky Yet Safe||Avoid|
|Doing what your loved one wants||Respect individual choices|
Everyone with dementia is different. Some loved ones may enjoy a little spooky fun, while others may not. Let them guide you. You can read more on how Halloween can affect someone with dementia here.
|Leaving them alone or pressuring them into something that they don’t really want to do.|
|Decorations||Use familiar or DIY comforting decorations|
Choose friendly themes like smiling pumpkins, balloons, happy Halloween bunting or DIY Halloween Decorations like homemade banners, pumpkin pompoms & stuffed shapes.
|Avoid ghoulish ghosts, gory monsters, scary witches, fake skeletons, cobwebs, or other frightening images.|
|Environment||Set the Mood|
Keep the lights soft and warm, and use safe battery-operated candles to create a cosy and comforting atmosphere. Ensuring no trip hazards and deciding if you want constant disturbances or hanging a no trick-or-treat poster.
Also, have a calm & quiet room available where a loved one can retreat if needed
|Avoid bright, flashing, strobing lights.|
|Engage the senses||Engage the senses|
Use soft materials and soothing colours for decorations, tactile materials and soft gentle music. Use aromatherapy scents to engage the senses.
|Avoid loud noises and startling, eerie sounds. Things that jump out. Music with strong beats or high tempos|
|Costumes/Masks||If your loved one wants to wear a costume, pick costumes that are easy to put on and take off. Dress up existing clothing with badges, funky socks, Halloween stick-on motifs, and things that bring about happy, comforting memories.|
Choose a theme, dress up like iconic movie characters from a familiar era.
|No scary costumes or Masks|
|Food & Treats||Sweet Treats|
Have easy to eat sweets, fruit, bakes, cookies & and cakes decorated with non-scary Halloween motifs.
|Avoid carving pumpkin incidents, Sweets that they can swallow & choke on or sugar highs from overconsumption.|
|Halloween Activities||Simple, engaging activities|
Include seniors in simple Halloween activities, such as baking, decorating, playing games or watching friendly Halloween movies. You can find 10 Fun Halloween Activities for Dementia in this article
|Avoid having complex or memory games long-winded activities.|
Remember that everyone’s experience with dementia is unique. Always consider your loved one’s individual needs and preferences, and be ready to cut Halloween activities short if your loved one seems tired or distressed. You can read more on the different types of dementia here.
Just taking the time to plan will hopefully help you have a safe, dementia-friendly, and enjoyable Halloween.
These last-minute tips for Halloween for seniors with dementia will help you to consider your environment, the mood, activities, engaging the senses etc and the individual preferences of your loved one with dementia!
For more tips, check out this article Tips for a Safe Halloween for Dementia Caregivers.