Martha is the full-time carer of her husband Charles. Charles has Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson’s disease and he now uses a wheelchair.
In the past, Charles and Martha were very active people. Martha recounted that Charles was quite a sportsman, he played football and squash and enjoyed riding his bike.
Martha said: “He used to go to the gym and have a swim afterwards, but about three years ago, he could no longer do it on his own and he needed support. I was fine in the gym, but I don’t like water so it meant he couldn’t go.”
Martha heard about the Dementia Friendly Swimming programme via a leaflet that was in her GP Surgery. “I go round looking for leaflets because I’m the one he’s turned to,” explained Martha. “I had to give up work and you think, well, what do I do? I’m not sitting in the house all day so I looked for things to do. When I go out, I look to see what we could do together and anything that would keep the movement up.”
Martha and Charles have been attending the sessions for 8 months. Charles needs one-to-one support and Martha was initially concerned about not being with him in the water and whether there were enough staff around.
“Accessibility key for positive usability”
Martha aims to bring Charles to the sessions every week but sometimes struggls. Charles’ attendance and participation is dependent on Martha. The centre’s large accessible changing room is well equipped with a hoist, bed and hoist chair. These plus the overall accessibility of the centre, ease of parking, signage and attitude and ability of centre staff, are key to a positive user experience.
When asked about the programme benefits, Martha said she felt that both she and Charles benefitted greatly from attending the sessions. They met new people in the same position and made new friends who they now see at other activities.
Although Martha doesn’t swim, she feels she benefits altruistically from seeing the pleasure that Charles gets from the sessions. She has noticed a difference in Charles’s wellbeing, in particular his movement, confidence and mood.
It’s taken time, but Charles’ strength has improved as a result of the sessions. He can now stand when Martha dresses him and once in the pool he is mobile without assistance. He walks up and down doing breaststroke arms and enjoys swimming underwater.
“Improvements in many aspects of both our lives”
Martha feels that Charles’ movement has improved and his deterioration has slowed.
“Charles would not eat outside [the house], because he was aware he’s a messy eater now and he can’t use a fork and spoon properly. He won’t eat anywhere else but here, he feels that comfortable.
“[Charles could be] a bit grumpy before a swim sometimes. Once he gets there he absolutely loves the one-to-one attention. He jokes in there and just to see him do that, it’s absolutely wonderful.
“It’s the knowledge that he can swim and walk on his own as well.”