Alzheimer’s and Halloween

Alzheimer’s and Halloween
Alzheimer’s and Halloween have something in common- they are both scary! To an Alzheimer’s patient Halloween can be destabilizing because of children constantly ringing the doorbell, strange decorations, confusing costumes and ghostly creaking sounds which contribute to the spirit of the holiday. This doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate, but you might want to reevaluate the ritual to see it with Alzheimer’s eyes.

Here are some tips for a fun Halloween:
  • Prepare for the celebration by discussing your plans with the Alzheimer’s patient and describing the holiday dynamics like trick or treaters. For example, show your loved one a decoration and ask, “Do you like this decoration?” If he or she says, “This frightens me,” then respect this perception. Don’t try to talk him or her out of it. Most patients will be okay with pumpkins and cats; however, witches and ghosts might be unnerving.
  • Keep furniture in its place. Consequently, your loved one will not become confused or even worse, bump into things and fall. Alzheimer’s affects balance and perception. Watch out for low-lying candles! It’s always easier to prevent than to treat.
  • Avoid rigging up strange sounds like ghostly laughter or creaking doors because they bombard people with too much stimuli.
  • Let neighbors know that candy will be placed outside the door, (the honor system), so that children will not keep ringing the doorbell and frightening your loved one. Or put up a note on the door with instructions for trick or treaters. However, if your loved one is adequately prepared and looks forward to the children at your doorstep by all means let them come in and strut their stuff!
  • Know your loved one’s dietary restrictions, especially if he or she is diabetic. If you keep Halloween candy in a nearby bowl, you might be surprised that much of it will be missing. Those candy corns can give anyone a sugar rush! Instead place some healthy, colorful treats like cut-up apples with cinnamon or berry/yogurt parfaits. Bake your own pumpkin pie using wholesome ingredients as you follow a lighter recipe.
Halloween can be tweaked and personalized to communicate a meaningful updated ritual. Both you and your loved one will enjoy the current anticipation as you tap into a positive memory of past celebrations. Make decorations together to maximize the occasion. Art therapy provides positive stimulation and creative self-expression. And while you are coloring and pasting, play music in the background, preferably from your loved one’s time period, for happiness synergy.

For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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