Halloween can be a lot of fun, but for caregivers to older family members with dementia, it may require some changes. While Halloween offers spooky fun for most people, seniors with dementia may not find it so enjoyable.
That’s because dementia changes the way they see and understand the world. As a result, decorations may be more frightening than fun, and trick or treaters may seem like intruders. So, does that mean you shouldn’t celebrate Halloween at all? Not necessarily. However, caregivers might need to do things a little differently to make the holiday enjoyable for themselves and their aging relatives.
Below are some tips for celebrating Halloween with a senior who has dementia.
Choose Decorations Wisely
Your aging relative may think fake spiders and decorative ghosts are real. Imagine how frightening that must be for them. To prevent this from happening, think carefully about the decorations you use. Keep them friendly and cute instead of scary. You may even wish to change the focus from Halloween to fall, decorating with leaves and pumpkins instead of jack o’ lanterns and monsters. Also, avoid any decorations that could be dangerous, such as candles with open flames.
Change the Way You Carve
If Halloween just isn’t the same without a carved pumpkin, consider avoiding frightening faces and choose a different design. Carve a pleasant picture into the pumpkin instead. There are plenty of designs available online for free. Caregivers can choose something the older adult likes, such as a cute puppy or flowers.
Skip or Change Trick or Treating
Depending on the stage of dementia your aging relative is in, you may want to skip trick or treating all together. Caregivers can keep the porch light turned off and entertain the senior in a part of the house where they won’t see kids in costumes that might scare or confuse them. Or, you could place a bowl of candy outside the front door to treat the children in your neighborhood while also keeping the senior where they cannot see them.
Hide Candy Until Trick or Treating Begins
It’s a good idea to keep candy purchased for trick or treating in a safe place until it is needed for trick or treating. A person with dementia with access to a bag of candy might eat it all without thinking about the consequences. You don’t want to be dealing with an upset stomach on top of dementia.