Stray Ferret Christmas Appeal 2023: Dementia Forward is a ‘godsend’ for husband, says wife
Nov 8, 2023

This year’s Stray Ferret Christmas Appeal is to raise £30,000 for a much-needed minibus for Dementia Forward in the Harrogate district. 

The appeal is kindly sponsored by Vida Healthcare.

Please give generously to support local people and their families living with dementia. Let’s not forget who needs our help this Christmas.

Today, Flora spoke to a local couple about how Dementia Forward has helped them.

This Christmas, many people in the Harrogate district – families, friends, colleagues – won’t remember the festivities like others will, and their families can only sit by and watch as they lose their memories.

One local couple, Val and David Smith, have used the services on offer at Dementia Forward – including its Hub Club – during their nine-year battle with dementia.

The Smiths, who have been happily married for 56 years, received David’s diagnosis in 2014. Dementia has continued to rob David of his former life, and rob Val of the husband she knew.

Val, who was previously a legal secretary, took on the role as her husband’s carer, but soon realised this was not something she could face alone.

She said:

“There was a seven-year gap in between. David’s symptoms became more obvious and it was clear I needed much more help.

“I rang up and told the staff about David’s diagnosis. They came and did a home visit before he joined the Hub Club.

“He was reluctant at first but once I’d convinced him, he started coming once a week. He loved it so much, he now comes three times per week.”

Before his diagnosis, 79-year-old David lived a normal life – he worked for Leeds City Council and was a proud Leeds Rhinos fan. But dementia can affect anyone and quickly changes the lives of those around them. Val added:

“This is a disease that touches so many people’s lives and, without Dementia Forward, both our lives would be very different.

David attends the Hub Club – which takes places every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday – where he is surrounded by dementia support advisers and other people living with the disease who understand each other.

He does crosswords, plays dominos, snooker and, apparently, wins the morning quiz every time.

The Dementia Forward team strive to make the Hub Club a place where those living with dementia feel cared for and seen. They even curate playlists for each member made up of their favourite music to sing along to.

David said:

“I find it somewhere comfortable with nice people – it’s just something to do and gives me an interest.”

Dementia Forward not only provides support for those living with such a progressive condition, but also vital respite and advice for their carers.

Val described the charity as a “lifeline” and said the help they have provided both her and her husband has drastically improved her mental health. She added:

“It’s amazing – it’s just a break for me. I can go swimming, meet a friend, or just go home and potter around.”

Val also noted the positive impact it has had on her husband:

“It’s given him independence from me because we were spending 24/7 together. He’s made friends and he’s chatting to people.

“It gives me comfort to know he is comfortable, safe and secure.

“It’s a godsend.”

Even Val and Dave’s little grandson loves to drop grandpa off at Hub Club.

However, Val is losing her husband before her eyes – a heartbreaking experience shared by thousands of families and carers of those with dementia across the district. Dementia Forward eases the pain as much as it can – but it can only do so with the help of charitable donations.

Every donation to our campaign will go directly to Dementia Forward, helping us hit our £30,000 target to buy the charity a much-needed new minibus and bettering the lives of those living with dementia and the people around them.

Dementia Forward’s current bus urgently needs to be replaced. The charity would seriously struggle to afford a new one, which is why they need your help to keep this vital service going. Without it, many people living with dementia wouldn’t be able to access the help and support they need. 

Please, click here to donate whatever you can – you never know when you, your family or a friend may be in need of Dementia Forward’s help too.

Thank you.

The NHS found that one in 11 people over the age of 65 in the UK are living with dementia. For those who need urgent help or have a dementia-related enquiry, call 0330 057 8592 to speak to a helpline adviser.


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