We’re always seeking new ways to help the families we support enjoy a happier, healthier life. This week we tested out a two-day leisure break with eight families, all living with a diagnosis of dementia or Parkinson’s disease. I’m sure you can imagine the potential challenges and risks we faced. However, we were determined to create an event that gave carers Time to Relax and their partners the opportunity to enjoy their favourite sports.
Rather than tell you how things went on day one, I’m going to leave it to Linda and her thoughts as a wife and carer. Over to you Linda.
Gosh what a day!
My concerns re motorway driving don’t come into fruition and I arrive at our venue right on time.
There are high ceilings in this grandiose reception room and three distinct groups, we sit with our fellow Yorkshire contingents.
Our host is smiling broadly and welcomes everyone with the same friendly charm, it is obvious the delight that his dream of a dementia friendly break for Carers and their charges has finally become a reality.
I can only imagine the work behind the scenes, our invitation to join was readily accepted. It’s an opportunity for a night away with Ken in a controlled and caring environment that doesn’t come very often, in fact has never happened before.
It’s clear from the start that this is a bit of an experiment, no one really knows how it will go, but the positive vibe is palpable, everyone here wants to make it work.
I suppose we are guinea pigs, invited to test out the facilities and itinerary, we are to be asked to give our honest and critical feedback as well as positives and highlights at the end of our two day experience.
Ken’s golfing group is at our nucleus, and the two similar groups running in Lincoln and Nottinghamshire have united for this special introductory event. It is in in collaboration with Alfreton Hall, the venue for this brave initiative.
On this occasion the Carer’s are all ladies, their Cared -for all men. Ken recognises some faces and is very quickly at his ease.
We have and introductory chat then are divided, two different itineraries, carefully considered. The men go in a mini bus to the local golf course, they are in experienced and familiar hands. There is no hesitation from Ken, being with the lads is what he enjoys most.
We Ladies are left to chat. We all explain a little about our lives. Many of the threads are similar and we bond easily. It is a strange phenomenon but true, that although we have only just met we share a common story and the understanding is both empathic and mutual.
Time flies. By the time we have a lunch it feels we can talk honestly and openly about issues only we with experience can possibly relate to, it is a cathartic and healing environment. It feels like a big safety blanket has swept us all up.
All of us feel the weight of responsibility lifting from our shoulders. We’re not clock watching, we have trusted our ‘others’ into capable hands. Words like ‘freedom and time’ feature in the vocabulary.
Just being ‘like ladies who lunch’ for once, eating delicious sandwiches and glorious cake, feeling special and blessed.
It feels a bit serial, seated in the white room, decorated with its ornate plasterwork and gilt. A beautiful place usually exclusively used for marriage ceremonies, and rather grander affairs than our own. But we welcomed, our gentle and kind facilitator listens, the surroundings feel like a lovely dream where dementia doesn’t exist. It’s a huge treat for all of us.
After lunch we have a ‘sit down yoga’ session over zoom. The teacher is experienced and I feel my self drifting to the rhythm of my breath. It’s also more strenuous than I expected. I know well the importance of body and mind in fusion, so why is it then I don’t always care for myself as well as I should?
I resolve to make a more concerted effort in future. Even I can forfeit ten minutes a day to my well being.
The ladies take a stroll around the adjacent parkland, with no one in charge we go slightly off track. We arrive back at the hall slightly late to find the men happy to see us after their busy day of walking and golf.
By now the segregation groups of the morning have merged into a harmonious society of friends, Ken can’t recall what he has done but is smiling broadly. ‘It’s been a good laugh’ he can tell me and that’s really all that matters.
The biggest shock of the day and one which causes much hilarity is that Ken and I have been allocated ‘The Bridal Suite’ the largest and grandest of the eight bedrooms. It is huge with four poster bed, enormous mirrors and a large chandelier. The bathroom has a freestanding bath and dual shower. It is literally like the ‘throne’ room with two crystal appendages hanging from its high ceiling with deep carved cornice. We have views of the gardens and fountains To say it is palatial is an understatement. I’m smiling as I write. Ken is dressed and gently snoring beside me laid on top of the bed, probably not most the romantic!
Dinner tonight is a combined affair. The dining room is beautiful I’ve even chance to wear a dress and some heels.
There is an entertaining pre dinner talk about a life in football by an ex professional and his association with Brian Clough. Just at the right pitch, it sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
We are called for dinner and the three course meal is served around large round tables of grand proportions. This is after all a wedding and conference venue. I imagine sadly Covid will have had a serious consequence to it’s business over the last eighteen months.
Everyone has made the same sort of effort the ladies look lovely and it’s rather nice to see the men out of golfing gear. It feels like a proper night out.
The food is fabulous and the quantity and quality has all the guests approval. The service and situation reminds me of dinner on a cruise ship where strangers share experiences and become holiday friends.
Certainly our table is full of chat, the conversation light and companionable. I learn things, Ken contributes where he can, and tonight he exceeds my expectations managing his food, I discreetly assist where necessary, but it really doesn’t matter this is a safe place.
It feels incredibly normal, Dementia has been banished to the background. Talk isn’t about what we can’t do it’s about being proud of the things we have been lucky enough to do. There is a relaxed and positive mood about this dinner, and a genuine understanding.
I approached this night away with some in trepidation that was totally unfounded we have all been supported beyond my expectations.
Everyone retires early, Ken is immediately asleep. I lie in the four poster princess bed and reflect on the day.
It seems to me that being apart for a change doing different things has brought Ken and I closer together. He particularly has loved being ‘one of the boy’s’ saturated in male humour and camaraderie. I have loved all the ‘girl stuff’ but most of all fluent conversations.
If today is a blueprint for the future then I find it hard to find fault.
Best still we still have another day!
10/10 so far.
Linda’s review of day two will follow shortly !