Creating a Dementia-Friendly Halloween: 6 things to do and not to do

Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 4:55 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) - As Americans prepare to enjoy Halloween, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering six things to help families and friends keep their loved ones living with dementia-related illnesses safe and comfortable.

“Halloween can be very challenging and stressful for someone with dementia because of how these illnesses impact the brain. Scary sights, frightful sounds, and costumed strangers knocking on the door can cause anxiety, fear, and agitation,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational & Social Services. “Taking a few simple steps can help families and friends keep the ‘Happy’ in ‘Happy Halloween’ for their loved ones with dementia on October 31.”

AFA encourages caregivers to follow these six steps to create a dementia-friendly Halloween:

  • DO: Proactively address stress. Halloween is potentially full of noise, costumes, and strangers, which are frightening for someone living with dementia. Playing relaxing music, engaging in a quiet activity such as reading a book together, and providing verbal and physical reassurance can all help decrease agitation or distress. Explain the nature of Halloween to your loved one if it seems appropriate.
  • DON’T: Use interactive or scary decorations. Decorations that talk or scream when someone approaches or walks by, as well as those with flashing or flickering lights, are frightening for someone living with dementia and might make them try to wander. Fake skeletons, monsters, witches, cobwebs, and tombstones, even if non-interactive, could also be scary. Decorate instead with such things as pumpkins and fall leaves.
  • DO: Adapt the celebration. Replace candy with fruit or another healthy snack for your loved one; too much sugar intake could increase agitation. Reminisce by looking at old family pictures of Halloween events, painting pumpkins together, or watching a non-threatening program about Halloween if they seem to want to participate. Focus on what they can (and choose to) do now rather than what they used to do before the onset of dementia.
  • DON’T: Leave your loved one alone to give out candy. Costumed strangers continually knocking on the door could be frightening and disorienting to someone living with dementia. It could also pose a safety risk. If the person wants to interact with trick-or-treaters by giving out candy, have someone there to assist or arrange for the person to go to a relative or friend’s house. There may be an appropriate, non-threatening celebration at a community center or organization in your loved one’s neighborhood.
  • DO: Leave your lights on. Have interior and exterior lights on for safety. Keep candy outside your door for trick-or-treaters with a sign that says “Please Take One.”
  • DON’T: Invite trick-or-treaters into your house. This creates potential safety issues and the possibility of further disorientation. Unless the person knocking is someone you not let trick-or-treaters inside the home. You can invite a small number of friends, family, or neighbors to stop by to “trick or treat” and come inside for refreshments if your loved one enjoys this holiday and wants to participate.

Families who have questions about caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease can contact AFA’s Helpline by phone (866-232-8484), text message (646-586-5283), or webchat ( to speak with a licensed social worker. The Helpline is open seven days a week.

To report a correction or typo, please email