As the end of October approaches, many Alzheimer’s caregivers are concerned about safety issues for their loved one with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It’s true that Halloween can be a frightening holiday for the elderly, particularly those who are confused (such as people with dementia). If your loved one is living alone, there may be an added concern that local residents (masquerading in costumes) on Halloween, may take note of those who are the most frail and vulnerable—the elderly who live alone.
Tips for Halloween Safety
Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable Halloween this year:
-Don’t leave your loved one with AD alone on Halloween to pass out candy. Encourage him/her to go to a relative’s, friend’s or neighbor’s house to give out Halloween treats.
-Avoid turning off all the lights in the house and giving a clear picture that no one is home. This may encourage vandals or burglars to target the home. Instead, turn on the lights (both inside and out). You can leave candy on the porch with a note that says, “Please take one.”
-Never let a trick-or-treater into your home (unless you know the person and his/her family well), not even to use the bathroom or make an emergency call. This tip should be more strictly followed with older kids, but when young children are accompanied by a strange adult, the same holds true. You never know when someone could be attempting to check out your home for staging of a crime down the road.
-People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may want to enjoy some of the seasonal festivities, but will most likely need assistance with activities such as carving pumpkins.
-Those in the moderate to late stages of AD, particularly people with Alzheimer’s dementia, may be frightened and confused by costumes and Halloween decorations. It’s important to keep these folks sheltered from Halloween activities; perhaps plan to have them stay with a relative or friend who lives in a remote area where there is not much trick-or-treating traffic.
-Consider limiting the decorations this year, items such as fake skeletons, cobwebs and flying witches may cause agitation and confusion for a loved one with AD.
-Avoid decorations with flashing or flickering lights, particularly those that talk or scream; these items have been known to frighten people with AD into wandering out of the home.
If your loved one does become agitated on Halloween, here are some tips for the National Institute on Aging:
- Assist your loved one into moving away from the upsetting environment right away.
- Talk softly and reassure your loved one that he/she is safe.
- Play soothing music or create some other type of positive distraction (such as offering a favorite snack).
- Engage in a quiet activity (such as reading a book or looking at photographs) as another means of distraction.
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