Dementia Adventure Holiday clients Ron and Wendy Bibby have been on several supported holidays since Ron was diagnosed with dementia in 2010. Here Wendy tells their story.
What were your lives like before living with dementia? Did you travel much?
We did travel yes, we liked to travel to places like India, China and the USA. In fact, in 2006, we moved from Devon to Sussex, so we could be nearer the main London airports, as well as closer to our family members. We used to spend 3-4 months a year in France as one of our sons had a property there too.
How did the dementia begin, and when was the diagnosis made?
Ron had some vascular issues (the body’s network of blood vessels) and had surgery in 2007. Following the surgery he started to develop some recall and memory issues, which got worse. He was eventually diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2010.
What happened after the diagnosis?
At the same time he received the dementia diagnosis Ron was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. This seemed the more immediate issue because he needed to have radiotherapy. In a way the dementia diagnosis took a back seat while dealing with the cancer. We were in shock about both diagnosis and went through a lot of different emotions. I started to imagine the worst, especially with the dementia as I had seen others in late stages. Ron took it hard and was very low for a long time.
Our friends and family have been very supportive, there are a few where you can sense they have stepped back. It hurts but you learn to accept it. The nature of vascular dementia is that you ‘dip and then plateau’, ‘dip and plateau’ – it’s not a continual decline like other dementias. When people understand this they are able to support us better.
Initially we tried to carry on as normally as we could. Ron would play snooker and bowls, we saw our friends and had parties at our house.
How did you feel about travelling and going on holiday after the diagnosis?
By this time Ron was diagnosed we had sons in Singapore and Australia, so our holidays became visiting them, which made it much easier. Initially, travel was fine apart from the large amounts of medication we had to carry. As Ron has declined we have been unable to go abroad. Our last trip was early 2015.
How did you find out about Dementia Adventure?
When we realised we weren’t going to be able to go on holiday on our own anymore, I looked online for group holidays for people in similar situations to us and found Dementia Adventure.
How did you feel about the idea of a ‘supported holiday’?
The information on the website and the quotes from people who had been on the holidays certainly made it seem like it could work well, but to be honest I did feel apprehensive. I really had no idea what to expect.
Do you feel the supported holiday benefitted both of you?
Yes, definitely! It made it so much easier to relax. The support wasn’t in any way intrusive, we felt free to do what we wanted, but we knew we had the support there if we needed it. The support gave us confidence to do things we might not have done, like Ron going on the zip-wire! We were able to have quality time together. It was great to be able to trust the team and take some time for myself. For example, when we were at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, Ron was telling one of the volunteers about the gold leaf gilding, as he used to do that himself, it was so lovely for him to be able to talk about it, and as he was enjoying himself I was able to leave him to it. Another time on a holiday in Northumberland Ron wandered off and immediately the team went to find him which meant I didn’t need to panic, that was invaluable support.
Ron loves to chat, he uplifts others and loves to be with people, so being with the group was fantastic. We got to share our experiences with them and learn from them – we supported one another. There was lots of laughter and a few tears.
Dementia Adventure are all about helping people with dementia to get outdoors, connect with nature, themselves and their community to retain a sense of adventure in their lives. Do you feel, in general, being outside, or connecting with nature, improves a sense of well-being for you both?
After any holiday we both have a greater sense of well-being, so it’s great we haven’t had to stop. When we’re back at home we talk about the memories of the holidays which is great stimulation for Ron. Being outside is so uplifting – you just feel a sense of freedom.
Would you recommend supported holidays to others?
Undoubtedly, yes, on so many levels. It’s just great to feel normal. Being with the other couples and the team is invaluable, we help each other, sharing and supporting. We felt really understood by the team who were very patient and enthusiastic and went out of their way to ensure we had the best time possible.
Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone – face the fear and do it anyway, I say! I’d go on a supported holiday every couple of months if we could.
Do you have any advice or tips you would like to pass on to other families living with dementia?
Remember life is not over, just different. Like any new role, it will take some adjustment and there will be difficult times, but life can still be good. Get family actively involved, so they can see what you’re living with day to day. Be open with everyone and don’t hide away. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be frightened of the medical profession – arm yourself with good information and be bold. Talk with people about how you feel, you will feel a lot of different emotions, all of which are normal.
Include the person living with dementia in conversations, speak in front of them. This stops them feeling excluded and useless.
Accept you cannot change the situation and take each day as it comes and try something new – you might surprise yourself!
Dementia Adventure provide group and bespoke holidays across the UK. Find out more about by calling 01245 237548 or visit www.dementiaadventure.co.uk.
More about Dementia Adventure
Dementia Adventure is an award-winning social enterprise and registered charity committed to helping people living with dementia get outdoors, connect with nature, themselves and their community, and retain a sense of adventure in their lives.
Dementia Adventure also designs, plans and delivers bespoke, small-group holidays and short-breaks for people living with dementia and their carers to enjoy together. It supports people with trained staff and volunteers, and offers this as an alternative to traditional respite.
Through training, research, and consultancy services it enables care providers and organisations to take advantage of the natural resources on their doorstep to enhance the lives of people living with dementia and the people who care for them.
The organisation is currently expanding the benefits of its nature-based, positive-risk taking approach with local and national partners through its social licence product Dementia Adventure in a Box in order to increase the choices of outdoor activities available for people with dementia. Its legacy will be to create an ever-growing network of dedicated, experienced and knowledgeable individuals and organisations, all receiving in-depth support from the Dementia Adventure team.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Dementia Adventure