Keeping Halloween Happy


fun or fearHalloween is a fun time for most kids and their parents. Well, after The Perfect Costume has been found anyway. The candy, costumes, and over-stimulation of the day is what makes many kids love the day.

But for a growing portion of our community Halloween can cause undue stress and anxiety. Elderly loved ones living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s can easily be scared or confused by the knocking, doorbell ringing, costumes, and excess noise outside their homes.

We’ve put together a few tips for you to help make this holiday fun, safe, and memorable for the Seniors in your life.

Preparation is the Key to Success

Take some time to try and explain that there will be some commotion happening. We understand that this can be difficult, and it may not be remembered, but try at least a couple of times before the big evening.

  • Talk about your plans and describe how the day will go.
  • Have kids give a preview of their costumes.
  • Show your loved ones decorations before you put them out. Ask them what they think of them and respect their feelings if they tell you the decorations are too frightening.
  • Have distractions ready. Favorite movies, puzzles, crafts or these conversation cards are great options.

Location, Location, Location

This is an evening filled with stimulation and surprises, and neither are good for people with Dementia.

  • Never leave a loved one with Alzheimer’s or physical limitations alone. Some people are more likely to wander out of the house and away from the frightening commotion.
    • Stay home to answer the door, and reassure them if they hear something scary.
    • If you’re going to be out trick or treating or at a party, arrange for your loved one to stay at a trusted neighbor or friend’s home.
    • Or hire a professional to come in to provide company and reassurance.
  • Avoid busy public places. Kids love to run around and be wild in parks and at parties, showing off their costumes and binging on candy. But all of this action, noise, and the costumes could cause someone with Alzheimer’s to associate this place with fear and scary memories and avoid it in the future.
  • Consider taking your loved ones to smaller, simpler community events. Dementia shouldn’t steal all of the fun from your loved ones during the holidays. If there’s a small event at a senior or community center, try to involve them.
  • If your loved one lives alone, consider inviting them over to your home for a small celebration. Watch movies or listen to music in a room far away from the door.

Decorate With Care

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Halloween is the decorations. But, Alzheimer’s patients can be easily confused if their surroundings suddenly become unfamiliar.

  • Keep decorations to a minimum in the most common areas of the home.
  • Avoid scary décor.
  • Skip the decorations with scary or abrupt noise and movement out of the house.
  • Don’t use candles or flashlights in the home. Dementia can cause visual perception changes, aggravated by these items, which causes anxiety.
  • Keep the hallways, entryway, and porch free of decorations.
  • Add night lights to hallways, walkways, and rooms to make sure it’s always well lit.
  • Avoid window decorations that block the view or light from the front entry.
  • Use flameless candles and safe carving tools when creating jack-o-lanterns and make sure to keep them outside.

Trick or Treating

Not all stages of Alzheimer’s are the same. You’ll know best how much your loved one can handle for the evening. If they want to participate in the candy give-away, let them! This is a holiday all about having fun.

  • Help them answer the door and hand out candy.
  • When the candy is gone or it gets too late, out a sign that says “Sorry, No More Candy”.
  • Turning off the porch light is generally known as a sign that trick or treaters shouldn’t approach. But, turning off the light can be a safety hazard.
  • If you can, set candy on the front porch so that trick or treaters can help themselves and you can avoid doorbell ringing.
  • Join a friend or neighbor at their house and take turns answering the door. This spreads out the duty and gives everyone a break.


Oh the candy….it’s the best part when you’re a kid and such a delicious pain in the rear as a parent. But it’s a real danger for Dementia patients. Find a really good hiding place for the candy that comes into your home or doesn’t get handed out to trick or treaters. Or consider healthier alternatives to the candy and avoid the problem all-together.

  • Nutritionally, sugary foods have been known to aggravate the condition.
  • Many people can’t control themselves with candy or remember how much they’ve eaten until they’re sick.
  • Many candies are against doctor recommended dietary restrictions.
  • Diabetics with Alzheimer’s are at added risk so be extra vigilant.

Costumed Creatures

Costumes and masks can be confusingly unfamiliar or outright scary to people living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

  • Have grandkids take off masks when they come to visit.
  • If a costume will be using elaborate make-up apply it after the visit.
  • Leave weapons or threatening accessories in the car. It’s not always easy for those with dementia to distinguish the differences.
  • Teens and adults should probably avoid costumes around their elderly loved ones. Large bodies in unfamiliar clothing can feel threatening.

We hope that we’ve given you enough ideas and tips to help you and your loved ones through this holiday with all of the joy that you’re used to!


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