Holidays can become increasingly difficult for people living with dementia and their families, but one unique Silver Travel partner is giving new hope to hundreds of travellers every year.
“People tell us that Dementia Adventure can make the impossible possible,” says Catherine Reed, who must have one of the best job titles on the planet. As Head of Adventures for Dementia Adventure, Catherine spoke movingly at Silver Travel Advisor’s recent industry briefing to the travel trade about the charity’s programme of active holidays around the UK for people living with dementia and their carers.
Dementia Adventure arranges travel, accommodation and a personal itinerary for each pair of guests, as well as providing each couple with a specially trained team member to act as an extra pair of hands. So both halves of the partnership can enjoy a carefree break together.
The only criteria is that people living with dementia are accompanied by someone who knows them well, whether a partner or main carer, a relative or friend. Strapped for cash? You can still have a holiday. As a registered charity, Dementia Adventure fundraises to keep prices as low as possible so that nobody needs miss out on a much-needed break.
“The price we charge is less than half the full cost,” explains Catherine, a fully-qualified nurse with more than 20 years’ experience in the front line. “We subsidise the first holiday for everybody, but we ask returning clients to pay more if they can afford it, thus subsidising trips for others. We try to be flexible in our approach, providing the most financial support to those in most need.”
Dementia Adventure is hugely grateful to all its supporters, including players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, and is only able to deliver the holidays through their unique model of volunteer support. A lifelong lover of the great outdoors, Catherine joined Dementia Adventure as an Adventure Leader, and she still leads some groups each year. It’s important, she feels, to keep her connected with the people they hope will benefit from their programme of holidays, more than 35 of them each year.
Accommodation is always dementia-friendly and of a high standard, with most breaks suitable for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. The Cornish adventure, for instance, is based in the St Austell/Bodmin area, close to attractions such as The Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Helligan, as well as to cliff top walks and old fishing ports like Mevagissy.
Thanks to Dementia Adventure, guests are able to enjoy activities that had long seemed out of reach. Pub lunches and cream teas; steam train rides; stately homes; and lake cruises. Destinations range from Lake Windermere to the Isle of Wight, North Yorkshire to Devon. Their Lakes Walking itinerary allows safe, supported access to some of the Lake District’s most famous fells, whilst the Maldon Sailing adventure explores the Essex Sunshine Coast aboard an iconic Thames Sailing Barge.
“The feedback we get is incredible,” says Catherine. “After a holiday with us, guests feel happier and more positive, and they leave with wonderful memories. They also tell us that they feel far less lonely after sharing the experience with others who understand and who don’t judge.”
“Some couples come away with us every year; some more than once a year. And so many say that they wish they had found us earlier, because Dementia Adventure is the only way they can get away together now.”
Catherine has seen first-hand the positive impact that getting outdoors and keeping active can have on people with dementia. Glimpses too of people that haven’t been seen by their own carers for a long time.
“One lady who came on holiday with her husband told us she felt the break had rolled back his dementia by six or seven months,” says Catherine. “Sometimes people have got to such a low point that they can’t believe it’s possible to have a holiday.”
“Only recently, a stressed carer was so upset that she felt she couldn’t cope anymore, so I spent time chatting with her and reassuring her. At the end of the holiday, this lady turned to me and said, “You told me it would be OK. And it was!”
“When I hear comments like that on a regular basis, it’s hard for me to imagine doing any other job!”
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Dementia Adventure.