As Halloween approaches, caregivers, family members and friends may become concerned about safety for their loved one with dementia. For those with the disease who suffer from confusion, disorientation and other symptoms, Halloween can be a truly frightening holiday.
If you are concerned about a parent or senior loved one with dementia becoming lost or overwhelmed this Halloween, read these tips to keep them safe.
Halloween Safety Tips for Loved Ones With Dementia
If your loved one with dementia does become agitated or disoriented this Halloween, the National Institute on Aging recommends taking the following actions, which may help:
- If you notice your parent or senior loved one is getting upset, move the person away from the environment or situation that is causing the anxiety, confusion or fear.
- Observe your loved one closely and continue to watch for signs of agitation.
- Plan some quiet activities such as looking at family photo albums, reading or another favorite activity, to keep your loved one’s focus on something pleasant.
- Play some familiar, soothing music and offer a favorite drink or snack as a distraction.
- Talk in a soft voice and reassure your loved one that everything is okay.
For Senior Loved Ones Who Live at Home or in Memory Care
For parents or senior loved ones with dementia who live at home or in memory care, you can also take these steps to ensure a safe Halloween:
- Don’t be afraid to remove decorations that confuse or frighten your parent, or ask the staff if your loved one lives in memory care. Remind your loved one frequently that the decorations are not real and that people in costumes are just dressing up.
- Don’t hesitate to keep the porch light off to discourage neighborhood children from ringing the doorbell and trick-or-treating, which may further disorient your loved one.
- If your loved one with dementia enjoys some of the Halloween festivities, such as pumpkin carving, be sure to provide ongoing supervision.
- If your loved one displays confusion, fear or paranoia, it may be a good idea to arrange for him/her stay with another family member or friend who lives in a remote area where there is not a lot of commotion during the holiday.
- Keep decorations at a minimum at home and avoid those with flashing lights and noise and those that are too realistic. People with dementia have been known to wander in response to Halloween decorations that scream or talk.
- Monitor television shows your loved one is watching during the Halloween season to screen out any that are too frightening or gory.
For Senior Loved Ones Who Live Alone
There are unfortunately some people who will prey on seniors who live alone during Halloween.
If your parent or senior loved one is in the early stages of dementia and is still independent enough to live alone at home, it’s advisable to take these steps to ensure safety over Halloween:
- Don’t turn off all the lights in the home because it will give the illusion that no one is home. This could entice burglars or vandals to target the home. Instead, turn on the lights inside the house. If the person who lives alone insists on giving out candy, turn on the porch light and leave the treats on the porch with a sign that reads, “Please take one.” This will prevent anyone who is posing to be a trick-or-treater from casing the house.
- Never invite a trick-or-treater inside the home — unless you know the person well. Halloween is a very popular night for people to dress up in costumes, or take young children around the neighborhood with the underlying intent of staging homes for future crimes.
- Never leave your loved one alone to pass out candy. Even if a loved one is in the early stages of the disease and is overall, self-reliant. It’s not your loved one that is always the concern, it’s those who may seek to take advantage of a frail older person who lives alone.
An important part of being a dementia caregiver is being able to foresee potential challenges and plan to avoid them. When the holidays are approaching, it’s a good idea to develop a solid plan to ensure enjoyment and safety for both you and your loved one.
We hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!
What other safety tips for loved ones with dementia would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.