Why you should book a holiday with Dementia Adventure
My mum has been on some amazing holidays. My dad was a great traveller and, before he died, together they had seen many parts of the world. They were constantly planning and packing for another trip, so I know mum loves an adventure. Now in her seventies, her dementia means holidays are a little harder. Leaving home comforts and routine is not as easy, so what could be better than finding a group of people who understand what it’s like to have dementia and want to support you to have the best time possible.
I came across Dementia Adventure at The Alzheimer’s Show. Based in Essex, the growing charity offers short breaks all over the UK, from Cornwall to Northumberland, and even overseas, allowing people with dementia to get outdoors, connect with nature and have some fun. Along with an Adventure Leader, they provide volunteers to support each person living with dementia and their carer to have a relaxing and happy time away.
We booked to go to Devon, to stay just outside Exeter, in Topsham. Generally, there are about 12 in any holiday group, four of whom will be people living with dementia. I had a lovely chat over the phone with Lucy Harding, Chief Operations Officer, who took lots of details about mum to determine her suitability and then it was time to count down the days until we went.
I was apprehensive about what to expect on a holiday with people we didn’t know, and I wondered how mum would cope. I collected her for the long drive to Devon on the day a hurricane swept the country. The sun and sky were a sinister orange (something to do with sand from Africa), which gave the journey something of a mystical edge.
We were staying in The Mede, a collection of three bungalows that normally provide day and respite care for people living with dementia and their families. Dementia Adventure liaise closely with Sallie Routledge, who runs The Mede, to provide holidays there twice a year. It is a real home from home and we were welcomed with smiles and waves, then whisked into the inviting open plan kitchen/living room, complete with comfy chairs and a stunning panoramic view overlooking the River Exe.
One of the volunteers immediately started chatting to mum and we were soon treated to our first Devon tea with scones, jam and clotted cream. The conversation flowed and there was no talk of dementia at all. Just chats about journeys and interests, talking as you would to anyone in life and no one minding if mum forgot and repeated herself.
Jesse Reed, our Adventure Leader, and the team of four volunteers, along with staff from The Mede, looked after us superbly from start to finish. In the beginning I found it hard to accept that someone else was there to give me a helping hand. I felt a bit guilty letting go but actually, having others there to show me different ways of doing things, particularly around communication, was really useful.
They took time to get to know mum and found out about her talents as a piano player. They organised for her to have a keyboard at The Mede and she very happily gave a mini concert one night, playing tunes from Noel Coward to the Sound of Music. The highlight for mum was a visit to Powderham Castle, which has great links to The Mede, where she got to play the grand piano in the ballroom. She even met Lord Devon who asked her what she thought of how it sounded, and she’s not forgotten that conversation to this day!
For more information about Dementia Adventure, go to www.dementiaadventure.co.uk
Check out these guest blog posts for Dementia Help UK.
This organisation helps carers to cope and was set up by Christina Macdonald, writer and author, who cared for her late mother, Hazel, after a diagnosis of vascular dementia.