Halloween can be a huge trigger for dementia patients. Here's how to keep them safe

Between the jack-o'-lanterns at Iroquis Park, costume parties at the Louisville Zoo,  Halloween decorations in Crescent Hill and trick-or-treating at Churchill Downs, the spooky season in Louisville is in full force. 

The holiday's focus — and fun — is usually centered on children and families. 

But there are some folks in the community who struggle with this season.

Scary decorations and the chaos of little monsters running around the neighborhood can be unsettling and confusing for the elderly, especially those who may have dementia.

For residents in long-term care, and loved ones in residential neighborhoods, Halloween can be overwhelming and distressing — what health care professionals call "the perfect storm" for causing an increase of confusion and agitation. 

"As individuals age, we let them sit on the margins and peripherals of society, and we don't think about the things that we do that might affect with them age," said Jasmine Wadkins, a senior behavioral health consultant at SignatureHealthCARE, a local long-term care facility. "Dementia is internal, and so you can't look at a person and automatically know they are struggling with dementia. It's out of sight, out of mind." 

Learning about the issues facing people with dementia can help everyone, especially caretakers, be more proactive in the future, Watkins said.

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