April 2023 Newsletter


Supporting Your Loved One with Dementia During Celebrations

Passover picture

Celebrations are a chance for friends and family to spend meaningful time together. However, for those living with dementia, celebrations can cause added stress, confusion, and anxiety. Changes in your loved one’s schedule can be upsetting while decorations and guests can make once familiar settings seem unfamiliar. On the other hand, celebrations also offer beneficial opportunities for reminiscence, socialization, and connection to those living with and without dementia.

Springtime heralds a variety of holidays and special occasions—Passover, Easter, Holi, and Ramadan to name a few. Dementia may introduce new challenges during celebrations, but by thinking outside the box, it is possible to ensure your loved one living with dementia feels included and supported during these special times. These tips can help you preserve old traditions while making new ones!

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  1. Plan ahead: Dementia impacts how people sense the world. Sounds, lights, and temperature can feel more extreme and overwhelming. To lessen the chance of your loved one being triggered by their surroundings, it is important to know as much about the event as possible beforehand. Ways to minimize stress can include:
  • Keep celebrations small with familiar guests. 
  • Have a quiet space where your loved one can decompress if needed.
  • Plan for what to do if your loved one becomes overwhelmed.
  • Keep the celebration short or bring your loved one only to the most meaningful part of the event.
  • Hold the celebration at a place familiar to your loved one, such as their home.
  • Talk with guests beforehand on how best to communicate and interact with your loved one.
  • Bring items that comfort your loved one (such as a blanket, photo album, etc.)
  1. Include them: Your loved one may not be able to participate in celebrations like they once did, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot still be involved and have an enjoyable or meaningful time. Activities are an opportunity to build your loves one’s self-esteem, so choose activities that are easy for them and let them see their own success, such as:
  • Involve your loved one in event preparations. Have them fold napkins, wrap gifts, fill envelopes, arrange flowers, scoop cookie dough, etc.
  • If your event involves eating, make sure there is food available that they are familiar with and able to eat.
  • Include them in meaningful traditions like singing, looking at family photos, reciting a prayer, etc.
  • Incorporate music they enjoy. Music and rhythm abilities are preserved for many people long after they have lost other cognitive abilities. 
  1. Adapt to their needs: It is important to be flexible when celebrating with someone who has dementia as they can become overwhelmed and upset. Consider how you and others can change to support your loved one rather than trying to get them to participate in a way that they no longer are able to. Some suggestions are:
  • Allow your loved one to leave the celebration early or take breaks if they need. 
  • If your loved one talks about the past, encourage reminiscing and validate the emotions that celebrations may stir up.
  • If your loved one says or does inappropriate or embarrassing things, redirect them rather than shaming them. 
  • Encourage other guests to be understanding and to take things slowly with your loved one.
  • Avoid testing their memory (i.e., saying “Don’t you remember who this is?” when introducing a guest) as it will likely embarrass them. 
  • Have guests wear name tags to help your loved one identify them and be understanding if they cannot remember names or people. 

Tips adapted from DementiaMinds.org and Alzheimers.ca

Birthday picture
Older adults
RAFT logo

Dementia Support Program


The RAFT Dementia Support Program is a new initiative in Northern Virginia that is part of the RAFT Program. The RAFT Dementia Support Program fulfills a vital community need for individuals with dementia and their caregivers to prevent psychiatric hospitalizations, and to provide comprehensive education and planning to improve caregiver resilience while improving safety and stability in community placement. 


Anyone can make a referral to the program, using the online referral form. Or contact Sydney Palinkas at spalinkas@arlingtonva.us or 703-814-2701. 


Spring Health & Wellness Fair - Hosted by The Virginian

April 13th / 10am - 2pm


Virtual Training: What's Normal? Dementia and Depression as We Age - Hosted by NAMI NOVA

April 24th / 7pm - 8:30pm 


Older Adult Resource Fair

May 31st / 10am - 2pm


Virtual Training: Overview of Dementia - Hosted by the Washington DC VA Caregiver Support Program

May 31st / 1pm - 2:30pm


Virtual Training: Dementia with Challenging Behaviors - Hosted by the Washington DC VA Caregiver Support Program Support Program

June 1st / 1pm - 2:30pm


7611 Little River Turnpike
Suite 200
Annandale, VA 22003

Phone: 703-531-2144
TTY: 703-228-1788

Email: raftdementia@arlingtonva.us