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Halloween is literally around the corner, which means we are stocking up on candy, looking for spooky costumes, and choosing Home decorations. One of the most popular Home decor items is a pumpkin.  Carving it, if you have never done it, is one of the most fun, stimulating, creative and memorable activities ever! We always search for ways to bring some enjoyment and improve the quality of life for your aging loved ones and their Caregiver. Senior-friendly pumpkin carving will do just that. 

Many of our Seniors have carved a pumpkin or two in their lifetime. Re-engaging them in this activity, in a safe way, is guaranteed to bring them buckets of joy and take them back 30 or 40 years — if only for a day. 

Safety is the #1 priority

If your loved one is unable to participate in the carving, the Caregiver is sure to love it, and Mom will enjoy the spectacle. If carving a pumpkin does not seem like a safe option, there are alternatives. Mom can paint a pumpkin by using acrylic paints, decorate it with moss or hay, lace, buttons, glitter, and other accessories. Your parent might simply enjoy scooping out the pulp of the pumpkin with a short spoon or by hand and using the hollowed-out pumpkin as a vase for Fall flowers. The key is to participate and enjoy the experience.

Assuming that carving is safe, let’s see how to best engage Mom and Dad in this exciting hands-on adventure. Keep in mind that you or your aging loved one’s Caregiver can always be involved in any and all of the following steps.

Picking up the goods

Believe it or not, this can be the most exciting and memorable step for your parent. Plan a trip together with your loved one and the grandchildren to a pumpkin patch. If that is not possible, ask a Caregiver to join your Mom at a grocery store for a pumpkin pick-up, or make a Mom-Daughter visit to the local farmers’ market.

The pumpkin to look for should have the following characteristics:

• not too big (8-12 pounds), so Mom can handle it safely

• be fully ripened (the stem should not be green) 

• have a fresh color and be without soft spots (soft spots and blemishes are signs that the pumpkin will develop mold) 

• have a stable bottom, which will be safer for carving

• have a smooth, easy and safe-to-carve surface

Preparing the crafting place

Open and stable kitchen counter may be the safest place to prep for the carving. If the surface is slippery, place some clean, old newspapers on it. Choose smaller, saw-like or bread knives, or tools from the pumpkin carving kit. Prepare a medium, open plastic bag to discard the inside pulp. Later on, you can sift through it to pick up seeds. Seeds can be roasted and eaten. They can also be ground and mixed into an oatmeal. If Mom or the Caregiver does not have a taste for the pumpkin seeds — squirrels will!   

Carving at a right angle

As you know, pumpkins should not be carved too early. Once cut, they do not stay fresh long. To preserve its freshness, you can spray the pumpkin with lemon juice. Pumpkin should not be carved earlier than 2-3 days before the big night. When all necessary instruments are in place, it just takes time to carve the pumpkin. There is no hurry. The journey is the fun. You can turn on some soothing music and make everybody relaxed. 

When carving the top, place a knife at a 45 degree angle or slightly at an angle. This is done to ensure the carved-out lid will not fall into the eventual lantern after you put it back in its place. When carving eyes, nose, mouth and other parts, hold the knife straight (vertical) — not at an angle. Remove all inside pulp and seeds with a short-handle spoon or just hands. Scoop more flesh on the side where the face will be carved. This trick will make carving easier for you or your loved one. Again, seeds can be toasted and used for salads and healthy snacks.

Placing a light into the lantern

Now that you are done with carving, your Mom’s jack-o’-lantern should be lit. As previously mentioned in our blog “How to Keep Mom Safe on Halloween Night”, the National Fire Protection Association reports that Halloween decorations cause more than 1,000 fires every year. For the sake of a safety, flashlight, glow sticks, LED lights or battery-operated candles can be used instead of real candles. Moreover, real candles dry out the inside of the pumpkin and shorten its life.

Positioning the jack-o’-lantern

The Halloween wonder should be placed for a display on a very sturdy, flat area, so it will not be knocked over by your aging loved one, their pets, grandchildren, friends, or trick-or-treaters. Keep it out of a direct sun, so it will stay fresh longer. Putting the lantern on a cool porch will not only lengthen its life, but will keep the bugs away. Beware: this Fall treat can attract animals, such as mice, rabbits, deer, squirrels or chipmunks. If Mom lives in an area frequented by animals, the jack-o’-lantern can always decorate the inside of her Home.

Making the fun last

Carving a pumpkin is a guaranteed entertainment not only for Mom and Dad, but also for the Caregiver. When the crafting event is over, do not forget to make a photo of Mom with a carved pumpkin. She will surely be proud of her achievement and place the photo as evidence into her scrapbook or photo album for lasting memories. Just wait until visitors stop by — she will talk about it for weeks. 

Again, Happy Halloween and best of luck with selecting, preparing and carving your very own pumpkin!

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