Halloween and Dementia – is it too scary?


October 29, 2022
Halloween and Dementia

The spookiest time for Halloween gatherings and events is usually early to late evening. That’s right smack bang in the middle of the time most people with dementia experience sundowning. So you may see agitation, and anxiety already without the added stress of Halloween, and trick or treaters knocking on the door. When you add in the strange/loud noises, scary costumes, decorations, fireworks, fake blood etc, it can REALLY be scary for someone with dementia. 

Someone with dementia may perceive someone dressed up as a ghost, or covered in blood with an axe in the head, or wearing a scary mask to be REAL and frightening. It can be frighting if someone is incessantly knocking on your front door and running away.

If your loved one has trouble recognising family members already, imagine how much more difficult that would be in costumes and masks!

Be mindful of decorations, spooky sounds, fake blood, costumes, and masks that could be perceived to be harmful, cause stress, confusion, and be frightening for somebody with dementia.

How to Reduce Stress & Anxiety for someone with dementia during Halloween

Explain to them what to expect this Halloween so they know what’s happening and are not surprised or disappointed in the day. How you prepare them depends on their level of independence, desire to participate in Halloween activities, and if they have dementia, what stage they are in. 

You know your care recipient, will they get agitated or scared by loud noises, scary costumes decorations? If the answer to that is yes, then you want to implement a calm and relaxed routine for the Halloween evening. 

  • Spend the evening with them if they’re alone.
  • Leave a bucket of candy with help yourself sign or put a sign on the door saying no trick or treaters here if you don’t want people knocking the door all night
  • If your main living area is too close to the front door, move to a quieter room at the back of the house if possible
  • Sit and chat – reminiscing about the best Halloween evenings they’ve ever had
  • Bring out the photo albums reminisce about your family
  • Play cards, or watch TV
  • Listen to some of their favourite night time calming music and if it’s noisy, get a pair of headphones out with a splitter and listen together!
  • If it’s just the two of you, then get on zoom, face-time, and chat to other family members
  • Turn on a favourite movie and watch that together–nothing scary!
  • Leave a light on so that burglars don’t try to take advantage
  • If you are concerned about your care recipient wandering, then throw a sheet over the door to camouflage it

Most importantly, is being a reassuring, calm familiar presence that will hopefully relax or reduce the anxiety that a loved one may experience during Halloween.

Reference: DementiaWho

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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