Dementia holidays

Discussion in 'I have a partner with dementia' started by Jinx, May 6, 2014.

  1. Jinx

    Jinx Registered User

    Mar 13, 2014
    Has anyone been to one of the Vitalise holiday venues where they specifically cater for couples where one partner has dementia? Keep looking at the web site but not sure if either of us is ready for that sort of break yet. Any experiences others may have had would be very helpful.

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  2. Chuggalug

    Chuggalug Registered User

    Mar 24, 2014
    Didn't want to read n run. No, never heard of this, but I hope someone can come along to help you out.

    Take care, Jinx :)
  3. MReader

    MReader Registered User

    Apr 30, 2011
    I have heard of these holidays but not been on one myself.
    However, a gentleman in our Dementia group (he is now widowed) took his wife to a couple of them before she died - one in the London area & one by the coast.
    He said one was great (think it was the London one) but the other was not so good - staff not as helpful & whole place needed redecorating.
    This was a while ago so things may have changed.
    He also said that a lot of the people there needed a lot of care - wheelchairs, hoists, help with feeding etc - so I decided that it was not for us - maybe later possibly.
    I got the impression that it was more a break/holiday for the carers than the sufferer.
    Please be aware that this is all second-hand knowledge.
  4. velo70

    velo70 Registered User

    Sep 20, 2012

    Never heard of the company, but what they do looks fine. Give us an update when you go. We are off to France tomorrow. I say we, I think it is me, taking my wife. She was enthusiastic for this one, up until a couple of days ago. Today, she feels unwell (like early morning 'sundowning', and decided she couldnt be doing with ironing and packing. So we will get done, but I now feel a little less enthusiastic. Can be a very lonely event, but she used to love France and any holiday adventure. Regards.
  5. Jinx

    Jinx Registered User

    Mar 13, 2014
    I don't think this is for us at the moment. My husband doesn't need such a high level of care yet and I think it might be too much of an insight as to what could be in store for us. I think we'll settle for a UK self-catering holiday, can't afford the insurance to take him abroad after two DVTs and lots of TIAs. Thank you for the feedback.

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  6. malc

    malc Registered User

    we go butlins,for the main reason that i can relax and have a beer knowing it's a secure site and if i did lose her security is everywhere,the same reason you'd take children i suppose.
  7. paulineanna

    paulineanna Registered User

    Oct 25, 2013
    west Lancashire
    I've been wondering whether to chance a self catering holiday - this is what we have always done - somewhere not too far away, as my husband has always been the "driver" and still doesn't quite trust me. Last autumn when he was still driving we went to North Yorkshire but 3 evenings he was packing the bags to make sure they fit in the car ready to come home. I am thinking that it would be less stressful for each of us if we just went out for days, as he soon gets tired mainly due to the fact that very often he is waken at 3 or 4am, and also he is unable to walk very far due to a back injury received 18yrs ago at work.:confused:
  8. Jinx

    Jinx Registered User

    Mar 13, 2014
    I'm still not sure what to do. Our 40th wedding anniversary is fast approaching and I'd like to go away even if it's for a long weekend but worry about how disorientated my OH will be and how long it will take him to settle down again when we get back. Days out might be a better option as my OH has a compression fracture in a vertebrae that causes him a lot of pain and restricts his mobility. Decisions, decisions!

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  9. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    #9 Beate, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014

    Hi, I am a new member. I have been caring for my OH for 3 years.

    We went to the Sandpipers Vitalise Centre in Southport in July/August 2013 for the first time and then this March for the second time. We chose this one as it's the furthest away from London so would feel like a proper holiday. The Alzheimer's weeks are subsidised so aren't as expensive as the other weeks but still quite pricey in my opinion. You're also only allowed to go on those three weeks and they aren't the weeks I would choose if I had the option. One is always in middle of January, one in early spring (March) and one later in the year. This year the next one is end of September.

    Once you book you get a form to fill in and your GP has to confirm the medical condition as well. They do call you a few weeks before with more questions as to what care he will need while there.

    My OH is still very sprightly and does not need hoists or a wheelchair but he does suffer from incontinence and that is catered for very well there. You can press the call button any time of day or night if you need help, there are nurses on call constantly. There are lots of young volunteers from all over the world and most of them are absolutely delightful. You get a programme for the week which you can take part in but don't have to and there are daily excursions, some as far as to the Lake District. Each couple is assigned a volunteer for every outing. The trips vary - some like Liverpool, Knowles Safari Park or Lake Windermere are great, others like Dobbie's Garden World or an antiques and collectables centre could happily be ignored.

    There is a carer's evening on Tuesday night where the carers get taken to a local restaurant and all the staff and volunteers look after your OH's back at the Centre. Sadly you have to pay for the food yourself but it's always a nice occasion.
    There is entertainment going on every night, whether it's quizzes, bingo, karaoke, dancers or a man coming round with animals (anything from rabbits, meerkats, chicks and skunks to snakes).

    Friday is always Gala night where the chef pulls out all the stops with a three-couse meal. You get breakfast and lunch as well at the Centre or a packed sandwich lunch if you are going on a trip. There are films put on at 4pm every day or a tea dance. You can always make your own programme though and go into town or the nearest park - they will always give you a volunteer to accompany you if you so wish.

    You can also book a massage, facial or haircut during the trip which is then done on a particular day - to be honest, you have to stay on top of that, sign up very early and then make sure what day and time your appointment is going to be or you will miss it. Most treatments are usually on a Friday which is just as well because by Friday you will be so tired from the week that all you want is stay in and relax. The treatments are lovely though and very reasonably priced.

    Sandpipers also have a lovely warm indoors swimming pool but it's a bit difficult to find a time where there is no kiddies class in it as they hire it out for different classes throughout the week.

    To be honest, a lot of the organisation can be a little chaotic and hit and miss and if for example you have a tea/coffee making facility in your room, you have to remind them to refill it! The whole thing is set up a little like a nursing home - almost everyone has their own single room, there are call buttons and adjustable beds plus walk-in showers (more like a wet room). Room doors are usually kept unlocked but you can ask for keys at reception. I certainly kept my door locked! Staff are required to knock before they enter but I had occasions where they just burst in. So if you are hankering after total privacy, this isn't for you. The whole set-up can feel a little intrusive and sometimes I just wanted to go back to my room and watch Eastenders but it felt kind of spoilsporty.

    You have to remember that Vitalise is a charity and they are trying to raise money during the week, mainly through their bar in the evening or small things like charging 50p per bingo sheet. You can win in those games too of course! I came home with a door stop and a £3 Tesco voucher...

    I'd like to try the Centre in Southampton because the area is lovely but I am not sure yet whether we will be going this September. All the activities made me feel very tired and I could have done with a week of relaxing afterwards! These holidays are best if your OH needs a lot of nursing help because they can really take care of that, get him up, help with the eating and the medication taking, get him to bed at night....
    They do have a daily laundry service which is invaluable. You leave the laundry in the basket in the morning and you have it back washed and ironed by the afternoon.

    If you have any more questions, please do ask. I can go on a bit but that doesn't mean I am coherent all the time.
  10. jawuk

    jawuk Registered User

    Hi Beate, welcome to TP - what an interesting and informative post! I was intrigued at the idea of a potential holiday, which would be the first for about 5 years, and had a look at the website and it does look good tho, as you say, a tad pricey. For those who need quite a lot of additional physical assistance it would be a boon and well worth the cost to have some of the load lifted. But my OH like yours is relatively physically fit and still has a strong sense of bodily privacy. He also sleeps an awful lot and so would be very unlikely to stay up for the evening entertainment. I'm going to give it more thought and perhaps raise the idea with him before deciding. :)
  11. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    Gives you more time to enjoy the evening entertainment yourself if he is asleep? To be honest, what was really interesting for me was the interaction with other carers as I don't have that a lot. I work full-time so have no time to go to all those lovely coffee mornings that are put on for carers by various organisations so the only interaction I get is when I go (rarely) to a Carers Forum. The volunteers are also lovely to talk to - they are young and learn a lot about dementia during that week. Last time they had to do a project and write about one of the guests. One chose my OH at first then retracted and said "He isn't bad enough yet". I suppose I should be flattered by that remark but I was actually a bit put out because he doesn't need to be in the final stages to be "interesting". Oh well. They'll learn.
  12. jawuk

    jawuk Registered User

    Oh Beate, if only my OHs sleeping really did give me some 'me time' but he has a 6th sense which tells him I'm not in his immediate vicinity within 10 minutes of my moving and prompts him to set out searching for me. Even telling him that I'm going to the bathroom gets forgotten within minutes and he'll be anxiously searching the house and garden.

    I'm retired but have yet to discover a carer's forum I could attend and take my husband and he be otherwise occupied - as it is we both go to Singing For The Brain and other carers are there of course, but it's not really a venue for sharing as every carer is sitting alongside their loved one as am I.
  13. Jel

    Jel Registered User

    Mar 23, 2013
    Memory cafés

    Hi Jawuk

    My husband and I attend a memory cafe twice a month which is run by the Alzheimer's Org. You can find a list of cafés on We have been going for some time now and find then most enjoyable. When you first arrive you have coffee and a general chat and then the cared for are taken to the other end of the room where they play games or other activities are organised leaving the carers together to chat. I have made some good friends by attending these cafés and although sometimes my husband is reluctant to go he does take part and enjoys himself.

    I hope this is of some help to you as I have found the friendship of other carers is invaluable.


  14. jawuk

    jawuk Registered User

    Thanks for that Jel I'll give it a try. I very much want to get my husband used to letting go of my hand and being his own man again from time to time if he will. One of the problems of always being stuck to me is that people tend to talk to me about him rather than to him directly - even a GP did the 'does he take sugar' thing the other day, when he is able to answer for himself if folk are prepared to use their common sense to interpret his words. His speech can be a bit like Eric Morecambe's piano playing - all the words are there (or something similar) just in the wrong order.

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