Halloween can trigger emotional, behavioral challenges

Halloween can be the ‘perfect storm’ for some, triggering emotional, behavioral challenges

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Costumes, spooky skeletons and jack-o-lanterns all come along with Halloween.

It’s all fun, but the chaos of little ghouls and goblins may be unsettling and confusing for some.

Halloween can be overwhelming for the elderly, most notably, those who may be suffering from dementia. Changes in the environment can really have an impact. The constant ringing of the doorbell, children disguised as monsters, flashing lights and creepy music can be overwhelming for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Representatives from Louisville-based Signature HealthCARE spoke to WAVE 3 News on Sunday about tips on keeping Halloween safe for our area’s aging population.

“In my experience, we get feedback from individuals who say because we tried to do things that were more person-centered it really did decrease their anxiety,” Jasmine Wadkins from Signature HealthCARE said. “Especially when you have some of those folks who are having hallucinations and delusions, some of those decorations can be scary.”

Signature HealthCARE offers these tips:

  • If an elderly loved one lives alone, make plans for him/her to be accompanied by another adult on Halloween.
  • During the days prior to Halloween, check on your elderly friend or relative to ensure that he/she is not experiencing anxiety by neighborhood decorations and related activity.
  • Ensure any decorations in his/her home are modest and simple (a change in environment is tough for someone with memory impairment and may cause disorientation and confusion).
  • Be mindful where the decorations are placed as elders with dementia often have visual difficulties and difficulties with mobility; to prevent falls, no decorative items in pathways!
  • Keep nighttime lights to a minimum (illuminated jack-o-lanterns, flashing lights can cause problems with visual perception. Elders with dementia already have perceptual difficulties and these things can exacerbate these issues).
  • Keep the trick-or-treaters orderly. (A constant stream of young visitors can cause anxiety and agitation for an elder with memory impairment).

Home of the Innocents also offered some advice when trick-or-treaters come to your door.

  • A child grabbing more than one piece of candy may have poor fine motor skills.
  • If you notice a look of disappointment on a child’s face, it may be because your treats have something in them that they are allergic to.
  • A child who isn’t wearing a costume at all may have sensory issues or autism.
  • If a trick-or-treater takes a while to pick out a piece of candy, keep in mind it may be because poor motor planning skills.

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