How a Chelmsford charity provides sailing holidays on the Essex coast for those living with dementia
PUBLISHED: 10:32 21 July 2020
Nikki Logan discovers how a Chelmsford charity is helping people countrywide to ‘live well’ with dementia
While uncertainty still surrounds our summer holiday plans for many of us, one Essex charity is keener than most to get its unique brand of holidays up and running.
Dementia Adventure, a national charity headquartered in the courtyard offices of Old Park Farm in Chelmsford, has been providing support to people with dementia and their family carers since 2009.
Through fundraising efforts, including ongoing support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the charity provides training, community events and fully supported, subsidised holidays across the UK for those living with dementia.
Every year, alongside dementia support and training across the UK, Dementia Adventure provides bespoke holidays.
Despite the challenges of 2020, once the government allows, the charity still has plans to give those with dementia and their family carers, a well-earned, enjoyable break that would otherwise seem impossible.
This includes the hugely popular sailing trip, setting off from Maldon Hythe Quay on board an iconic Thames sailing barge to explore the 350 miles of rugged sheltered coves, vast saltmarshes and sandy stretches of beach along the Essex Sunshine Coast.
Setting sail for five days, those attending will eat and sleep on board the barge, which has bed-bunked cabins, toilet and shower facilities and a large living and dining area.
The trip is hosted by Sea-Change Sailing Trust, providing all equipment and experienced sailors who encourage the group to become active members of the crew, taking it in turns to sail the vessel with roles including deck work, helming, chart work and navigation.
Stops include the beautiful wildlife haven of Walton Backwaters and Hamford Water; the small hamlet of Pin Mill alongside the popular waterside pub, The Butt and Oyster; the coastal town of Brightlingsea and the tourist hotspot that is Mersea Island for a taste of its world-famous oysters.
Dementia Adventure’s mission is to help people ‘live well’ with dementia by connecting with nature, themselves and the community.
This was certainly the case for Anne Swindell, a family carer from Basildon, who previously volunteered for Dementia Adventure, but has since been a recipient of the charity’s support when her mum was diagnosed with dementia.
Anne describes the impact the diagnosis had on her family. ‘It was like my mum’s existing capacity was lost,’ says Anne.
‘We became invisible; even for us as carers, it is very isolating. This is where Dementia Adventure has played a very important part in my family’s life – they see you.’
Having taken her mum, accompanied by her dad, on holidays with Dementia Adventure to the Lake District, the Isle of Wight and Norfolk, Anne has experienced various programmes of activities devised by the charity, each tailored to the needs of individuals on the trip.
‘The holidays are so person-centred. The leader knows exactly when and where each person needs support and this information is filtered across all of the volunteers,’ continues Anne.
‘It’s been a great success for us; something truly magical happens. Of course, the daily struggles were still there, but both dad and I felt so supported in caring for mum.
‘Even after the holiday, we felt refreshed and more connected to what we’re doing as carers and why. Mum has changed, but we have experienced so much positivity and compassion, and she’s been in touch with nature on a completely different level.’
With the support of the Essex Community Foundation and others, Dementia Adventure hosts free Dementia Support Sessions across the country for those caring for or supporting someone living with dementia in an unpaid capacity.
Dementia can be an isolating condition without the additional challenge of social distancing. The sessions are delivered online at the moment so friends and family can safely join, ask their qualified dementia trainers questions and connect with other people in a similar situation.
They provide information about dementia and the common symptoms, invaluable guidance to help people in a supportive role as well as practical hints and tips on how to remain occupied and stay connected. The sessions are free, easy to join and can be booked online.
Vivienne Depledge, CEO of Dementia Adventure, is aware what an important resource this is at this time. ‘So many people living with dementia feel isolated, often spending most of their time indoors because they are unable to take part in activities they once enjoyed.
‘The coronavirus situation has added to this isolation, and Dementia Adventure wants to ensure people living with dementia, their family and friends are not alone at this difficult time. Once things return to some form of normality, we hope many more people will benefit from our holidays and training.
‘We have the experts and support in place to enable those with dementia to take positive risks and remain connected with nature and their communities.
‘Being able to think differently about dementia can change the lives of those diagnosed as well as the thousands of families caring for their loved ones.’
In Essex alone, more than 23,000 people are currently living with dementia, and the community initiatives accessible through organisations such as Dementia Adventure can certainly be a welcome beacon of light to help those living with the condition navigate the waters.
Find out more
For details on Dementia Adventure and upcoming holiday and event information, visit dementiaadventure.co.uk