We have nearly 100 volunteers across our organisation, from trustees, to holiday supporters, to administrative support and much more.

Read about the experiences of some of our volunteers.

Carol Bower

Carol Bower, Holiday Supporter

Why did you choose to volunteer for Dementia Adventure?

I’d heard of Dementia Adventure through an ex-work colleague who already volunteers for DA. Having heard the positive feedback from her, and the carers and people with dementia who have participated in the holidays I felt it would be a worthwhile and rewarding thing to do.

I felt my knowledge and experience of supporting this cliental over the past 15 years as a Dementia Support Worker would be helpful and I feel passionate about maintaining independence for people with dementia.

Do you have any personal experience with dementia?

My mum had dementia and through her I realised how important holidays were for both of us. I could just go off on holiday if I wanted to but she couldn’t do that on her own. Because I know how important it was for my mum to have holidays, I know how important it is for other people living with dementia. I also worked for the Alzheimer’s Society.

What, typically, do you do in your role as a volunteer?

I’m there to offer a helping hand and a friendly smile. I’m there to help everything to go smoothly, from having breakfast to bedtime. You’re up first to greet the clients with a good morning and a smile and set the right scene for the day. I always try to make sure people aren’t sat alone too long. I would join in with the activities, and try to take time to find out their life journey and what they did before the diagnosis. I would help with a variety of practical things, but it’s not all serious, it’s fun. It’s important to be yourself, as it helps others to relax and be themselves too.

What do you like about volunteering for DA?

I like the fact that you’re allowed into people’s lives for a short period of time to enable them to have a relaxing holiday. You can take a little bit of pressure off the carer by supporting the person living with dementia and allow them to unwind a little. All through the week, you’re giving them time and space whilst reassuring them. You’re connecting people with the great outdoors—you learn so much by taking people out and about, seeing nature through their eyes. It’s a great experience.

How would you describe your experiences with DA?

Everything is well organised and well supported, there’s always a plan b and the Adventure Leader is fantastic. As a volunteer I feel fully supported by the team and the other volunteers and I know that we could address any problems.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s very uplifting. There’s always a positive. On my most recent holiday there was a gentleman with dementia who I would take walks with. On our walks he would point out the flowers, saying “the yellow one, the white one”—even though he had lost the words for the specific flowers, he was still acting as my nature guide. It was wonderful to see him so engaged.

Do you have a personal highlight?

For me, it’s when I find a connection with the person living with dementia. They might not necessarily be communicating with me verbally, but you see their positive feedback in other ways, when you see them being more relaxed and open.

What have you learnt about dementia?

Everyone’s unique, everyone’s different—see the person, not the diagnosis. I’m still learning after 17 years of experience with people living with dementia. It really doesn’t matter that they can’t describe something, it’s the emotional side that’s special. You learn so much, as you see it through their eyes.

Would you volunteer for DA again?

Without a doubt—no hesitation—and within any kind of setting, because a new experience for people with dementia is a new experience for me and I’m sharing it with them. I’m already signed up for another three holidays this year.

What would you say to people thinking of volunteering?

I’d definitely recommend it—I already have! It is tiring but it’s so rewarding. Strangers at the beginning of the holiday become a family and leave as friends.

Give it a go, you’ve nothing to lose! You can make so much difference to that experience by bringing some of yourself to it. There’s nothing not to enjoy about it.

John Barnes, Chair of Trustees

Chair of Trustee’s for Dementia Adventure, John Barnes, volunteered as a supporter on one of our holidays.

John joined a team of two other volunteers—plus Adventure Leader, Jesse Read—on a holiday to the Calvert Trust in Northumberland. The beautiful surroundings and fun activities make this one of our more popular holidays. On the holiday were four people living with dementia and their partners.

John explains why he decided to volunteer, “As Chair, I felt it was important to experience the work of Dementia Adventure first hand. I was also really keen to go. I had not been on one of the holidays before, although I have been on the park walk in Redbridge.”

Each day, John helped the team get breakfast ready and then spent the day supporting the couples so that their break was as easy and as fun as possible. He spent time chatting to the carers, who enjoyed having care-free conversation. He supported the couples out on day trips and joined in with the activities;

“I played pool with one of the gentlemen with dementia, which was fun, and another time a group of us played table tennis, which was hysterical—it was obvious some of the people with dementia had connections to the game in the past and they just lit-up as they joined in”.

John’s particular highlight was sitting with one of the men living with dementia and looking at a photobook with him; “It was a great experience, to see how he remembered things, and how certain images made him respond. It was fun for both of us.”

Before the holiday John had very limited experience with dementia and no experience caring for someone, here’s how he describes his experience with DA;
“It was very well organised. The training before you go is excellent and the provision of kit and everything you need is very good. I felt intrigued as to how it would go, before I went, but when I got there it felt almost natural—like being with family. I learnt that dementia doesn’t just fit the stereotype of people losing their memory. I saw how varied dementia is and its wider impact. Not only did I come away from the holiday feeling satisfied, like I had done some good, but I actually had fun and really enjoyed it too.”

John has already volunteered to go on another Dementia Adventure and has this to say to anyone considering volunteering:

“Go for it! Just do it. Don’t rule yourself out because you have no experience with dementia or any caring experience. You don’t need any professional skills, don’t let that hold you back. You will get all the training you need and will be very well supported.”

John Barnes
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