Halloween is a holiday that people of all ages look forward to each year. Costumes, candy, haunted houses and festive parties set this occasion apart from all the others, but how do you help an elder celebrate All Hallows’ Eve in a safe, fun and healthy way? Use these tricks and treats to include your loved ones in the festivities this Halloween.
- Choose healthy treats to haunt your home and candy bowl. Whether you plan to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, have a small get together or simply spend a low-key evening at home with your loved one, make sure you have healthy treats on hand. Help yourselves avoid binging on fattening and sugary candies by having better options available at home and for children who are trick-or-treating.
As a special treat, you and your elder can indulge in a few pieces of dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar and fat than milk varieties and even packs some immune-boosting antioxidants. A celebratory dessert made with natural and/or sugar free ice cream is another special treat that will delight your loved one. Provide healthy topping options like nuts, berries and other kinds of fruit, and oats or granola that they can choose from to make their own tasty creation. This will boost their intake of nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and protein.
There are countless healthy options for snacks and desserts available. However, keep in mind that some elders may have difficulty eating certain foods. A loved one who has trouble chewing and/or swallowing may fare better with a healthy smoothie or bowl of pudding instead of a hard granola bar or dense fruit like apples.
- Plan your “paranormal” activities appropriately. Your loved one may enjoy the excitement of handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters and seeing neighborhood children in their costumes. This is a fun and easy way for elders to interact with other generations and feel that they are a part of the celebration without even leaving their front porch or driveway. Encouraging them to participate is a great way to improve their mood and get them into the spirit of Halloween.
However, some elders may not interact well with children or be able to handle the hubbub of trick-or-treating. In this case, post an easily visible note in your driveway or on your front door that says, “Sorry, no more candy,” or “No trick-or-treaters, please.” This can be especially important for loved ones who have dementia and may be agitated or confused by repeated knocking or ringing of the doorbell.
Most trick-or-treaters make their rounds at dusk or just after dark, which may coincide with the onset of Sundowner’s syndrome. For an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia, confusion and agitation can be heightened at this time of day. Excessive noise, the coming and going of strangers, and costumes can be extremely disorienting and even frightening. Making treats together, watching a not-too-scary movie, or engaging in simple holiday crafts can be great low-key distractions. If you both choose to participate in Halloween festivities, be sure that you remain attentive and aware of your loved one’s mood and comfort level throughout the evening.
- Keep seasonal décor spooky but safe. Houses can be decorated to celebrate the height of the fall season with pumpkins, wreaths of fall foliage and cinnamon brooms, or they can be made into sinister dwellings full of cobwebs, spooky figurines, bats and spiders. Regardless of how you wish to decorate, make sure that none of these items present a tripping or fire hazard. One of the best ways to do this is to place larger decorations outside on the lawn, and keep indoor embellishments to small accents.
Décor may be out of the question for a loved one who has dementia, especially if they are prone to hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. Decorative touches that we think are tame may be extremely unsettling or bothersome for an elder with cognitive impairment. Their brain processes sensory stimulation in ways that can be scary or overwhelming. You know your loved one best, so decorate in a safe and considerate way.
- Make costumes creative and comfortable. For some, the ability to dress up is the best part of celebrating Halloween. If your loved one wants and is able to, assist them in making a costume, and let them show it off to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
Keep in mind that complicated or elaborate outfits may make it difficult to walk and/or make trips to the restroom. Simpler costumes will keep your loved one comfortable and make your caregiving duties much easier so you both can enjoy the festivities.