Rosie supports her husband, Jon, who has early onset Alzheimers. He was diagnosed in 2019 when he was 59, but he’d been experiencing cognitive impairment for about 8 years before that, meaning he’d had to retire early from being a GP. Rosie found their last holiday together very difficult because she ‘was used to doing things as a team’ and it was while they were away that she realised she’d got to the stage where she couldn’t take him on holiday on her own anymore.
I was searching the internet for ways to help motivate him and for things to do with him, because that’s what I really needed. To try and do it every day on your own and do everything else is really difficult.
When she came across the Dementia Adventure holidays, she was nervous about the idea of a group holiday because it wasn’t what they were used to. They had always gone away independently, just the two of them.
We’re quite introvert… If we go on holiday, it’s usually just the two of us, you know, we have a cottage somewhere and there’s no planned itinerary, so that we can be spontaneous with our time. But I was at such a point that I thought, ‘Oh, it’s worth a look at’. And then that’s when I entered my details on the website. I got a phone call from Dementia Adventure offering us a cancellation. I thought, ‘Thank you! I think this is meant to be!
Jon and Rosie went on a holiday to Devon with one other couple. The first morning, she felt ‘really low’, from the effort of getting everything organised, but as soon as she met the team she felt much better,
They were absolutely brilliant’ at picking her up, ‘with their combination of empathy, support and encouragement’.
Jesse and Ruth had experience, so it’s a professional support you get, where you can learn from them and actually feel listened to. They know what’s going on. And that was fabulous.
After she had recovered from that initial low, she was able to enjoy the rest of the holiday, in particular, not having to plan and shop for meals, or organise going out.
Having meals cooked, that was a big thing, really, really nice! And actually having the meals cooked at the accommodation rather than having to go out every time. It was also lovely to go out one evening and at lunchtime, as that’s what we would have normally done on our own holiday.
Having been initially nervous about going on holiday with other people, Rosie found she enjoyed having somebody else to chat to, especially someone who was ‘in the same boat’ and she learned a lot.
She felt that the holiday had a very positive energy. She found that as well as supporting them to have a holiday, the Dementia Adventure team also acted as advocates for people with dementia. At the aquarium, for example,
Jesse and Ruth spoke to the staff about the fact that they were a charity bringing people living with dementia on holiday, and I felt the staff interaction with the group increased their awareness about the needs of people living with dementia.
The holiday was such a positive experience. It definitely sort of gave me a wider view – a more positive attitude towards dementia. That you’re on a bus that’s got ‘Dementia Adventure’ on the outside made me a bit uncomfortable. But then I thought, ‘actually, you know, you’re right’. They’re being ambassadors for people with dementia. This is really important.
She thinks that positive attitude has rubbed off on her. She feels it’s helped her summon up the energy to do things and appreciating that it’s worth it – ‘the ethos of it kind of permeates through to you’.
Since the holiday I’m just trying to value where we are and actually make the best of what we have now. I think that was what part of the holiday was. I used to think if somebody could come here to be with John while I go off and chill, that would be lovely, but we wouldn’t have been doing it together. And while you’ve got that chance to do something together, that’s really important.
Rosie also feels the holiday has made her more confident about going out and advocating for Jon’s needs without being embarrassed.
I think I’m less apologetic… Having coffee at a cafe, I’m more upfront with requesting things or using the disabled loo and things like that. The lady on our holiday asked if I had one of the keys for disabled toilets, and I’d never heard of them. It’s those little things that you wouldn’t know that you learn from being with others.
A big concern for Rosie had been how Jon would cope with being away from home, and with people he didn’t know, but,
he was surprisingly good, really. I was not sure how it would go but he was amazing and enjoyed it’. The photo album is always a good focus for discussion and it is out on their dining table.
Unfortunately, Jon’s health has deteriorated since their holiday so she is not sure whether they will go on another Dementia Adventure holiday. However, she says,
“The Dementia Adventure staff are a brilliant set of people. The heartfelt commitment to what they were doing and the ethos of it really came across.”