Why Halloween Is More than Spooky for Adults with Alzheimer’s?

October 23, 2017

Alzheimers and Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re the caregiver for an adult with Alzheimer’s, here’s what you should know about this holiday.

Come Halloween, almost everyone loves a good fright. But for an adult who has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, spooky tricks can seem all too real. That’s why it’s important for caregivers to take time to learn how Halloween may affect a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

You might be surprised at the number of seemingly innocent traditions associated with Halloween that can be quite unsettling for someone with dementia.

Why Halloween Can Be Too Spooky for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Although Halloween is a time-honored tradition in many families, it can be a very frightening holiday for someone with dementia. They may not interpret Halloween traditions in the same way they used to because their mind doesn’t process signals the same way.

For example, many people love Halloween so much that scary decorations begin going up in stores a month or two before October 31. Some of these decorations even have sound effects. Anything that’s meant to scare or startle visitors has the potential to be traumatizing for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Costumes and Dementia

People who have Alzheimer’s disease may feel confused or frightened when they see people in Halloween costumes. According to WebMD, people in the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s may have trouble recognizing friends and family when they are in costume. That can lead to confusion, anxiety and even wandering.

Think of Halloween from an adult with dementia’s perspective. They are already having difficulty remembering names and faces even for family and close friends. Now they are surrounded by people dressed up in costumes that are designed to be terrifying or startling.

Sensory Processing and Halloween

One of the things people love about Halloween is they get to decorate their homes and yards in spooky ways. What was once a nice front yard is now a fake cemetery or home to a coffin. The front porch becomes the entrance to a haunted house.

Again, for someone with Alzheimer’s, those changes can trigger confusion and anxiety.

According to the National Institutes of Health, during the moderate stage of the disease the part of the brain that controls sensory processing begins to suffer damage. So while you see a fun, spooky yard with fake tombstones and eerie lighting, a loved one who has Alzheimer’s may misinterpret the decorations to be something they’re not. That can really turn up the dial on agitation.

Please keep this mind as you pull out your Halloween decorations and costumes. Remember to try and see the celebration through your senior loved one’s eyes and find ways to tone things down a bit while still enjoying the holiday.

Legacy Senior Living Wants to Help

At Legacy Senior Living, we understand the unique needs of people who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. This is why we offer several signature programs in our memory care community.

From ‘The Purposeful Day’ to ‘Simple C’, we strive to help adults with memory impairment live life to the fullest. If you’d like to find out more, please contact the community nearest you to arrange a tour.