The projects helping people with dementia to enjoy going swimming
From the October/November 2016 issue of our magazine - swimming can be a great way to keep active and to socialise after a dementia diagnosis.
Gareth Bracken reports on making pools safe and welcoming for people affected by dementia.
His wife Jean says,
'He had always swum in rivers and on holiday, but after his diagnosis – I don't know if it was fear or he just forgot how to do it.'
Jean, who usually joins her husband in the water, says,
'Fred loves it.'
Jean says that as long as Fred is accompanied by instructor Julie York, he will happily stay in the water for up to an hour.
The benefits seem to extend well beyond Fred's time in the pool too.
'Water relaxes him. He sleeps better and is more content in himself after he's been.'
'It takes away a lot of the tension, seeing him in the water, seeing him happy.'
Margaret, who is also 86 and has dementia, says,
'I have an enjoyable time. It is such a friendly atmosphere and the staff are really helpful.
'I see the same regulars every week and this is good, as I now recognise them when I come in and we have a chat.'
'I think I had a fear of water. I'd got my feet wet in a pool before but it was the first time I'd had my head under water.
'When I swam a length for the first time, my husband was really pleased.'
'That was really an achievement.'
Lesley now manages to swim up to 50 lengths a session. She says,
'There was another lady who couldn't swim. She went on holiday with her family and they were chuffed to bits when she got in the water.'
'For the members who were learning to swim, putting the different elements of a stroke together was a challenge. I devised a simple method of hand signals under the water to remind them when to breath – and it worked.'
'They give people confidence. I used to consider myself a reasonably good swimmer but hadn't been swimming since my diagnosis.'
Joy adds that dementia-friendly swimming isn't only about what goes on in the water. Since a friend of hers got stuck inside a changing room cubicle, adaptations have been made to the centre facilities such as cubicles and lockers. She says,
'It's all very dementia friendly. The people are very accommodating.'
Lesley adds that socialising after the sessions is also important.
'We all sit down and have a cup of tea and a snack. We're like a family.
'It's great to see people who previously didn't come out of their homes. People who don't have dementia also join us in the café.'
'Friday is my swimming day – nothing else goes on unless it's an emergency. It's a great morning.'