Helen was diagnosed with gradual onset dementia two years ago. She has always been active, she trained as a yoga teacher and enjoyed walking and cycling. As a four year old, Helen learnt to swim and has been an occasional swimmer ever since.
The 75-year-old remains very independent, considers her memory to be good and doesn’t think of herself as having dementia. She prefers to describe herself as a 75-year-old with a few problems. Helen tries to keep active by walking to the shops regularly as she no longer drives. She cycled for many years but her dementia has affected her balance and co-ordination and now she struggles to cycle.
Helen recently started receiving support from the NHS Dementia Wellbeing Service. Her dementia navigator linked her with local carers who have been helping her find exciting and interesting things to do in her local area. Given Helen’s previous swimming experience, after a quick internet search, Helen’s carer made contact with her local leisure centre and arranged to bring Helen to the Dementia Friendly Swimming (DFS) session. Her carer was keen to point out that Helen didn’t want to be treated differently because she had dementia. But being in surroundings where people know you have dementia it makes things a lot easier.
Good for many aspects of life
Helen relies on her carers bringing her to the sessions. While she intends to swim regularly, she doesn’t like to pressurise herself into committing to doing things, preferring to see how she feels on the day. Helen doesn’t feel anxious about attending the sessions. She especially enjoys quiet pool time, the jazz music, the pace of activities and the support offered by poolside staff.
She feels she’s gained many benefits from participating in the programme: “with swimming, I don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to fall, it’s so wonderful to be held [by the water]. The swimming has cheered me up no end.
“When I swim I sleep brilliant and in terms of feeling fitter, I think I do.” She also said: “swimming could very well be [good for] mindfulness, because you’re in your own zone.”
Since participating in the swimming sessions, Helen is keen to get involved in more activities, especially yoga and dancing.