Changing the face of dementia- one holiday at a time – By Carol Sargent


    Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a holiday, wouldn’t you agree? So, what about people living with dementia and their families? It’s time to challenge the traditional approaches. I think health, care and tourism professionals should be working together to provide us with new options to support our older generation. 

    This is Dementia Action Week, encouraging people to improve lives and create a dementia-friendly nation, where those with dementia don’t feel excluded and isolated.

    In my childhood, family holidays involving three generations were important. We carried on this tradition and my own children enjoyed holidays with their grandparents, even when both grandmothers were diagnosed with dementia and traditional holidays became too stressful.

    This is when I came up with the idea of MindforYou – providing special UK holidays for people living with dementia. At the age of 50, I took the plunge to leave my successful career as a pharmaceutical scientist to become a social entrepreneur.

    It’s now five years since we welcomed our first MindforYou guests on a Norfolk holiday. This week we’re welcoming more guests back to Norfolk. Who would have believed in the time between we’ve given more than 700 people living with dementia and their families the opportunity to have a break in 13 different destinations.

    Many people think when they reach a certain point with dementia that the door is closed to holidays. Often this follows a bad experience, or because a health care professional has encouraged them to maintain routine and not change their environment.

    This sort of advice saddens and disappoints me. It doesn’t recognise or acknowledge the lack of confidence this can instil in somebody living with dementia, or the boredom and isolation it can create for them and their families. With the right support, there’s nothing to stop people living with dementia and their families going on holiday, right into the later stages of their dementia journey.

    Providing personalised support is what we do. We take the trouble to personally select every property we use and visit all our guests before their holiday, so we can tailor things to meet their specific needs. All are treated as friends and welcomed into the MindforYou family.

    The number of our guests who return is amazing and their feedback is humbling – especially about the confidence they have gained:

    ·     The daughter who feels able to take her Dad away again by herself

    ·     The carers who go home with a new self-belief, having shared their experiences and learnt new skills from other guests and our staff

    ·     The person living with dementia who stopped taking their sleeping medication for 6 months after their MindforYou holiday

    It’s really rewarding to know we’ve made a difference and to know we are helping people and their families to live well with dementia.

    It all just goes to show what’s possible with the right skills, understanding, care and commitment. Our unobtrusive support is provided by experienced staff from 9am to 9pm allowing all our guests to relax and renew their relationships – carer and cared-for, husband and wife, father and daughter, aunt and niece. Crucially, we give carers “MYtime”, so they can recharge their batteries. A diagnosis of dementia should not mean an end to fun, fresh experiences and new friends.

    Let’s challenge traditional approaches and open up to the possibilities where health, care and tourism professionals can work together to provide our children with new options to support their parents in their old age.

    Check out MindForYou for more information