Dementia Diaries

Wetwheels Yorkshire

The following Blog was written by a lovely lady, Linda Barnes, who documents her experiences transitioning from a wife, to a carer (her words), as she supports her husband Ken following his early diagnosis with dementia.  Linda's original blog can be viewed here

An later interview with Linda and Ken, by BBC Look North, highlighted the difficulties associated with Covid19 lockdown and dementia.  This can be viewed here:


Birthday Special

Sometimes days don’t get much better and today was one of those days.

Ken’s birthday, 58, I’d wracked my brain for something special, we all know we have to make things count while we can.

Ken was first introduced to the charity Wetwheels a couple of years ago, through an outing with his dementia group to Whitby.

I’ll never forget how he came home buzzing. He’d taken his turn to drive at the wheel of a motor boat. This came very shortly after he had been refused his motor licence due to his condition and the loss of independence was still very raw. The irony wasn’t lost on Ken, the powerful boat gave him esteem again.

His second trip last year was also a success, but unfortunately this summer the outing had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown. A bitter blow for all concerned, but our charity arranged a zoom meeting with the Wetwheels champion and Ken really enjoying it.

I got a whisper last month that although the boat couldn’t be chartered for groups ( Covid again) they were beginning to take out family bubbles. What better present could I find for Ken than the opportunity to take his family to share his maritime adventures.

A brief phone call and the booking was made, paperwork completed and time arranged off work for James and his girlfriend. The other guest wasn’t told for fear of letting out the secret. 

Our grandson had never been on a boat, and was a bit apprehensive at first, but soon became bewitched by the sea. This was no potter around the coast, our fabulous two man crew soon had us at full throttle, cutting through the swell, spray occasionally splashing us in the face.

The forecast all weekend predicted lightening and rain, I had concerns, but kindly it avoided us. A bit grey maybe, but the wind calm and sea conditions good.

At first we were treated to inquisitive grey seals, their huge eyes watching in our direction. We were thrilled. Our little five year old totally transfixed scanning the sea for more signs of marine life.

I simply couldn’t believe it when the boat suddenly stopped, our experienced skipper having spotted the majestic arched back and triangular fin of a minke whale. Clear as day a few yards from the boat, huge.

I squealed with delight, a first for all of us, and at the Yorkshire coast, our crew obviously delighted too, the wonder of nature never ever fades.

One more display and the mighty form dives down, we’ve had our moment. The boat now picks up speed, we’re heading to where Bottle nosed dolphins have been sighted, and our luck is in. Probably about three of them, one comes up close to check us out.

We are all in awe. Wildlife, free spirits, giving us a spectacle on their terms. It’s exhilarating but also humbling, they chose to share their freestyle performance with us.

We’re out on the boat for almost three hours, we have learnt stories and history of the coastline. We have bridges lifted like royalty for us whilst traffic and pedestrians wait, we have seen our land from a new perspective.

Ken has loved it. It has been the special birthday I hoped. An adventure that our grandson will never forget, and happy feelings Ken will remember.

Worth every penny is how I’d describe it. A priceless experience, caring and understanding crew, respectful and socially distanced, but warm and welcoming. Dementia really didn’t matter today, thrills and excitement led the way.

Uplifted, thankful, blessed. We’ve been so lucky.

Happy Birthday Ken, and all my love.