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Safely Celebrate Spooky Season Around Loved Ones With Dementia

Autumn is a season of change. Among the ever-changing colors of the leaves, cooler temperatures, and endless pumpkin spice-flavored treats come the wacky and wicked decorations of the so-called “spooky season.” Beginning as early as September 1st and running through Halloween on October 31st, you are likely to encounter all sorts of spooky decorations, from re-creations of the Charlie Brown pumpkin patch to the increasingly popular and extra creepy 12-foot-tall skeletons from Home Depot, signs of the season are all around. These changing landscapes featuring spooky scenes can be confusing, disorienting, and potentially scary to your elderly loved ones, especially those with dementia or other age-related degenerative neurological diseases.   

Here are some suggestions from our memory care experts for safe activities for seniors with dementia that will allow your loved one to participate in the holiday celebrations. 

Plan Ahead 

Being prepared is always a good idea, particularly if you plan to celebrate with an elderly loved one. Discuss your plans, decide who will be involved, and plan where your celebration will be held. Hosting the activities in a welcoming and familiar place to your loved one can help create a successful celebration. Understand your loved one’s routines and thresholds for confusion or disorientation. Open conversations with their caregivers if they live in assisted living or memory care can help you better understand their situation.  

Once you have a plan, discuss it with your loved one and everyone involved in the celebration so everyone knows what to expect. Essential preparation can help everyone reduce stress.  

Make Your Decorations More “Mild” Than “Wild”  

Decorations can be a fun part of the Halloween season but can also be scary for all ages.  

Keep heavy decorations like pumpkins and decorative gourds off the floor to avoid tripping hazards. Limit noisy decorations, voice or motion-activated theatrics, dry ice, strobing lights, or loud, scary music. These things can cause fear and confusion, which may dampen your celebrations. Find happier decorations, such as smiling pumpkins, fun witches and ghosts, or other fun decorations. Think more spooky than scarier.  

Be thoughtful about decorations representing dying or death. Bloody weapons or corpses, skeletons and skulls, and cemetery scenes can be unsettling for older adults. Be aware of scary movies, music, or commercials during this time of the year.  

Keep It Simple  

Keep your celebrations simple, brief, light, and fun. Load up on apple cider, candied apples, popcorn, and other appropriate seasonal treats. If the children are in costume, avoid scary or distracting masks. Plan your visit for a proper amount of time to ensure your loved one gets plenty of rest after all the fun.  

You know your loved one best and know what to expect. Making a plan, keeping decorations mild, and planning a simple but fun celebration can help you have a successful spooky celebration with your loved one.  

An elderly couple is painting with kids. The young girl is painting the old man's nose. Traditions logo at the top right corner