Penny Bell cares for her Mum, Rosemary, who lives with alzheimers and vascular dementia. Penny and Rosemary have been on three of our supported holidays, in the Isle of Wight, Devon and Norfolk. We spoke to Penny to hear her experience of caring for her Mum and how having a dementia adventure has made a difference to them both.
Hi Penny, tell us a bit about life with your Mum, Rosemary?
“Mum was formally diagnosed with alzheimer’s and vascular dementia in April 2016 but we were aware of her symptoms for quite a while before that. Mum is very social and chatty. She is a music teacher and piano player and is used to being very busy. Dementia hasn’t stopped her in many ways, but she needs more support to keep doing the things she loves. I am with her as much as I can and she has visits from carers too, as well as attending a dementia club for some of the week. She prefers to stay in familiar surroundings, so I had been unsure about taking her on holiday following her diagnosis.”
How did you discover Dementia Adventure?
“I went to the Alzheimer’s Show to get more information about dementia in general and saw a stand there for Dementia Adventure. At first I thought it was all about hiking and sailing, not things Mum enjoys particularly! But then I realised you could do gentler holidays that took in the outdoors, with things like steam train rides, and visits to stately homes, parks and beaches. That sounded much more like us, especially when I saw it also included tea and cake!”
What helped you to decide to go on a supported holiday?
“I talked it through with mum and we both thought going on a holiday with people who understood her condition really well and wouldn’t judge her for it, would make it far easier for us both to enjoy being away together. It meant we could make the most of being away and having time together, without having to think about what meals to cook or plan the trips.”
Did you have concerns before the holiday?
“Just prior to the holiday, mum had a dip in her condition, and I was concerned it might make the holiday harder. Mum copes much better being at home with everything she knows around her and I worried being away would make things more difficult. However, I knew that the adventure leader and volunteers would be skilled in dementia and that was huge peace of mind.”
How would you describe your Mum’s experience of the holidays?
“Mum thrives in company and loves talking to others, so she really enjoyed being part of the holiday group. She loved all the activities and being busy every day. Afterwards she didn’t remember all the details of what we had done, but she did know that she’d done something she really enjoyed and she felt happy.”
What was your experience both as a carer and as a daughter?
“For me, it was great to be with other people who really understood the dementia experience, in particular, the other carers on the trip. We were able to exchange tips and share knowledge. Our group leader was another an invaluable source of information on strategies and other ways I could to help Mum once we got home. I also learnt a lot about how Mum was coping with things, emotionally and practically, by being together 24/7, insight I might not have got otherwise.”
Has there been a holiday highlight for you?
“The team at Dementia Adventure know that Mum is a musician and very kindly arranged for her to play the piano at Holkham Hall in Norfolk. It was the most beautiful Steinway grand piano, positioned in the grand reception area and the acoustics were incredible. She played some pieces from memory, which she has spent a long time telling me she could no longer do, so that was priceless. She also sight read music provided by Holkham Hall. She drew a crowd, was applauded afterwards and people came up to her as we toured the house later to say how much they had enjoyed her playing! It gave her so much confidence.”
How have things been since the holiday, have you noticed any benefits from being away?
“Though she may not remember the details of the holiday, it has given mum a boost. With all the tips given, I have renewed energy to find the right kind of additional support for mum so she can continue living at home for as long as possible.”
What would you say to someone who is nervous about taking someone with dementia on a supported holiday?
“If it’s supported, you have nothing to worry about. Our adventure leader, Jill, and volunteers, Tracey, Ron and Mel, could not have been nicer. They went with the flow, accommodated everyone’s particular needs and made sure we all got the most out of the holiday.”
Dementia Adventure offer small group, supported holidays for people with dementia and their partners, family, friends or carers to enjoy together.
Our holidays are subsidised through fundraising to enable as many people living with dementia to benefit as possible. Our trained team and expertly planned itineraries mean you can have the holiday you have been hoping for. Whether you want to relax by the coast or walk up mountains, we have something for everyone — please take a look at our holidays.
If a small group holiday is not your thing, perhaps you might like a bespoke holiday? Ideal for groups of friends or families who want to travel together—please contact us for more information.