• By Amanda Blackburn.

Dementia Holiday Trust

One of our close family members has recently taken a turn for the worse. His symptoms of forgetfulness started a couple of years ago and in a very short time, this once very clever organised strong and fit man has become a totally different person.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking, all the memories we made together have disappeared from his mind and he doesn’t really know who he is or we are anymore. I don’t think he’s really aware of his condition, he seems to be quite happy taking each day as it comes, it’s everyone else who’s around him that are finding it hard.

How can someone who has never drank alcohol, never smoked, always kept himself fit and active suddenly become like this? He forgets where he is, who he is, who everyone else is, how to do simple tasks and has difficulty simply thinking. So what’s wrong with him?

We have been told he has dementia. Dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. His symptoms were very small to start with, forgetting where he had put things, but they are getting more severe and starting to affect his daily life. He also is showing changes in his mood and behaviour and isn’t really aware of what he is doing.

People are all so different and will experience dementia in their own way. The environment around them and how people handle them will affect how well they live with their type of dementia.

The symptoms of dementia differ with each person. Symptoms include memory loss, forgetting recent daily events and past. Lack of concentration, not being able to plan, organise or make decisions. Difficulty in carrying out everyday tasks, like washing, cooking or cleaning. Language difficulties, finding it hard to remember what the conversation was about.

Poor at judging distances (such as on stairs) and seeing objects in three dimensions. Lack of orientation – for example, losing track of the day or date or becoming confused about where they are.

A person with dementia will often have changes in their mood. Visual hallucinations, mood swings and delusions are all side effects of some types of dementia. Symptoms gradually get worse over time and very sadly the sufferer usually develops a different uncharacteristic personality. As dementia progresses, the person may develop behaviours that seem unusual or out of character. These behaviours may include asking the same question over and over, pacing, restlessness or agitation. They can be distressing or challenging for the person and those close to them.

My friend recently shared some information with me about a registered charity called Cherish Dementia Trust. The charity’s aim is to provide holidays for those with Dementia, their Carers and families. Apparently, people are not aware of this charity and if people are not using this service then the national lottery will no longer fund it. I wanted to get this out there as it’s very important that this charity continues, so please share with as many people as you possibly can.

Cherish was founded by Janet Wright, a former Occupational Therapist, who became aware, whilst working with people with dementia and their carers, of the benefits that could be derived from assisted holidays and day trips. Together with John Mather and a team of volunteers, they have run holidays for over 10 years.

In 2006 the first holiday was organised and following its success others were organised each year until in 2012 Cherish was formally set up and Charitable status was granted by the Charity Commission.

Cherish's aim is to provide affordable assisted holidays and day trips to people with Dementia and their Carers, usually husbands and wives, daughters or sons or anyone who provides a substantial amount of care. Importantly each couple needs to be self-caring as no personal care is on offer.

As well as a break, the holiday gives people the opportunity to meet others in the same situation. People with dementia enjoy the company of others in the same boat and benefit from the Carer’s undivided attention. Carers are able to discuss problems and share experiences. Often friendships are forged and telephone numbers exchanged, thus providing a lasting supportive network for the future.

Details of the holidays and day trips are contained in newsletters which are sent out several times a year. To receive these a membership form needs to be completed. There is no charge to be a member.

If you want to find out more or become a member head over to their page here.

Dementia can happen to any of us at any time, we may need this charity at some part of our, or our loved one's lives. Spread the word by sharing and hopefully it will help someone find something good to look forward during troubled times.

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