Gillian and Donald were married for 72 years, Holly is the youngest of their five children, and her work on archaeology projects often took her abroad. With her parents’ increasing frailty but with a fervent wish to remain living in their own home, Holly moved into her parents’ home, taking time out of her own career to care for them both. By the Spring of 2020, Donald began to show symptoms of dementia, managing this, finding help, and access to services such as assessments and scans were hindered by the lockdown.
Holly reflects: “It is not just about memory loss… Dad’s loss of cognitive ability, to be able to make decisions, spatial awareness e.g. to find the kitchen, find the loo, and his loss of confidence, was really hard to watch, and he was aware of it, and he became frightened. He would lie in bed at night saying, ‘I’m frightened, what is happening to me?”
During a Carers Support Meeting online, Holly was signposted to Dementia Support, and we were able to begin to help the family. Initially through our Wayfinding advice service, which led to Donald and Gillian attending Day Breaks, all three of them participating in activities, and accessing our well-being and personal care facilities.
Holly said “I was blown away by all the facilities and everything that is on offer. The café, such a lovely space, the colours, the open plan, the sunlight. I know Mum and Dad really loved coming here and Mum still loves coming here. And the café is open to the public, although it is a specialised centre for people with dementia it doesn’t feel like a specialised medical unit, it’s a really friendly and bright café and I really like that aspect of it.”
Holly and her parents joined Reminiscence and Singing activity sessions, Holly reflects: “I really enjoyed the singing, I was still being their carer, but it felt like a complete break for me, and with the Reminiscence it was lovely hearing Mum and Dad talking about their experiences.”
The family enjoy accessing our well-being services available at Sage House, with both parents having had hairdressing appointments in our dementia-friendly salon and Holly finding that massage therapy is helpful.
Holly reflects: “Really lovely, caring means carrying a lot of tension and it helps me.”
Donald enjoyed using our adapted bathing suite as his physical frailty had made this impossible to complete at home.
Holly reflects: “He loved the bath, the jacuzzi bubbles on and I would say it’s Bath Day and he loved that.”
Donald sadly passed away in August 2022 aged 98. Gillian is 94, and together with Holly continues to enjoy a coffee and time at the ‘chatter table’ in the café, before Gillian has a day in Day Break enjoying the craft activities, and frequently having her hair cut and dried in a comfortable, purposeful place where they can both relax, whilst Holly then has some time for herself and her wellbeing.