In 2014 Gillian was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She had always been a strong swimmer, winning butterfly championship titles and training regularly. Following her diagnosis she began to find swimming a challenge.
Roger explained: “Gillian has always loved swimming but with the onset of dementia she struggled to stay in the lanes and would forget to turn at the end of the pool. It was really frustrating for her. We would go swimming twice a week, but being in a busy pool surrounded by people who aren’t aware of her condition was hard.”
More supportive environment
When the Dementia Friendly Swimming (DFS) sessions started at their local pool, Roger was keen to see if they would offer a more supportive environment for Gillian.
In May 2015, Gillian and her husband Roger attended their first Dementia Friendly Swimming session at Chester-le-Street Leisure Centre in Durham.
He said: “Everyone seemed to enjoy the session. The best thing was knowing that everyone there was aware that there were people with dementia in the pool.
“Staff were attentive and had thought about the support that was needed not just in the pool, but outside too. Help was at hand but it wasn’t patronising which was really important.
“There’s a definite need for sessions like these nationwide. They mean people living with dementia can enjoy swimming with a sense of independence.
“We certainly plan to attend more of our local sessions in the future. Gillian and I are both really glad that the project is being rolled out to other areas of the country.”