Halloween is a fun night for many, but it can come with challenges for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. With an estimated 827,000 Floridians serving as unpaid family caregivers, it’s important to know how to approach the holiday with your loved one.
- Create a calm space. Confusion caused by Halloween visitors and decor can impact existing suspicions or delusions caused by dementia. Create a space that is calm with soothing music or their favorite activity to avoid overstimulation. Avoid having decor that could be upsetting, such as ghosts, tombstones, zombies and other scary items.
- Look for agitation. Changes in their environment, visitors, fear and fatigue can all increase anxiety and agitation for someone living with dementia. This makes Halloween an ideal time for these behaviors and misperceptions. Do your best to create a calm environment and maintain their normal routine as much as possible. If you are going to hand out candy or have visitors, create a plan for the evening that includes monitoring for agitation. Would they be comfortable giving out candy with you or should they have another activity to distract them from what is happening outside? Is the doorbell going to be confusing? If so, minimize the noise by putting a candy bowl outside. If they become agitated about the change in environment, don’t argue. Offer simple answers or decrease the amount of activity or stimulation. If decor suddenly becomes confusing, remove the decor from their line of sight.
- Don’t leave your loved one alone. The risk for wandering increases with changes in their environment or potentially stressful and confusing situations from Halloween. Make a plan so your loved one is engaged in a safe, comforting, and calming area. If your loved one is missing for more than 15 minutes, call 911.
If you have questions or need assistance, call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.