At first Dave was anxious about visiting the dementia day service. Then everything changed. From their home in North Bristol, local couple Dave and Diane share their experiences attending the Westbury Fields Dementia Day Service, how it’s helped them find new friendships and rediscover their independence.
I wouldn’t have known there could be such nice people out there to help people like us.
Tell us a bit about yourselves. Are you Bristol locals and how did you meet?
Diane: We met in a club in town, it was one of our birthdays. That was 54 years ago now. We lived in our last house for 29 years. Then Dave got ill. The doctor said his mobility may get worse and because of the stairs, the garden and it was such a big house it would be advisable to downsize. We thought about this one and then just went for it.
Dave: We’ve been here for 7 years. It’s lovely, a quiet place, no motorway noise and there are plenty of animals around too. Deer, rabbits, everything you can think of.
And how did you first hear about the Westbury Fields Dementia Day Service?
Diane: It was via our social worker, Karen. Dave was getting frustrated at home so we thought, is there anything else out there? She said, “What about Westbury Fields?” I’d never heard of it. She sent for some brochures and it all started from there. Dave’s been going for nearly three years now.
How have you found visiting the day service?
Dave: It’s been very beneficial. I was very active before becoming ill. I had oceans of things that I could do – photography, painting watercolours, I was a lorry driver. I had a really full life and had a family of 5 to take care of – three children, my wife and myself. Then the illness set in and I lost my independence. It’s difficult to believe how dependent one person can be on another. Diane is my carer and she does a wonderful job. She does so much for me – and it gets very tedious asking for small things.
Diane: I think if it wasn’t for places like Westbury Fields Day Service people like Dave would definitely struggle. At first when we spoke about going he said he didn’t want to. It was out of his comfort zone. I said, “Try it once and if you don’t like it you don’t have to go.” And he’s never looked back, he wants to go all the time!
Dave: Now I’ve got friends down there who are very helpful people, very lively and jolly people who are very good. You couldn’t wish for a better group of people.
How would you describe the team?
Diane: I don’t think anything’s too much trouble for them. No matter what situation you’re in, they will always try to help or if they can’t they will put you in touch with someone that could. At the moment we’re hoping to get Dave in on a Thursday as well – so that would be 4 days a week. To him it’s like going to work. Meeting people, doing different activities, going out, just getting out of our four walls. I’ve only got the wheelchair and we don’t drive, so I can’t physically take him too far. Without people like at the St Monica Trust it wouldn’t be possible. I think they’re marvellous.
What does a typical day look like at the dementia day service?
Dave: We start the day by entering through the gates, going in and sitting down. Someone will put a cup of coffee in front of me and some toast. And then as the morning goes on we read the newspapers and we all talk about what’s in them. We often go up to a blackboard and play word games – it gets the brain going and is very good. They throw open the centre to raise money for charity and invite the public to come in too – they have community fetes which do very well. We’re very busy.
Diane: They do all sorts – whether it’s Christmas, Halloween or St George’s Day they will mark it in some way. They had a concert recently too, which was a good chance for a sing-song. They also put on a karaoke event and invited Dave to sing. All the family and friends went, and they raised quite a lot of money too. I wouldn’t have known there could be such nice people out there to help people like us. Because we were just stuck, we didn’t have anything. Dave used to go out with a chap called Andy every week – who was a befriender form the Alzheimer’s Society. Then Andy left and there was nothing. Until Karen told us about Westbury Fields.
Dave: They take us on day trips too. They’ll say, “Let’s go to Weston or Clevedon.” If the weather’s not good we’ll play games inside, like deck quarts or basketball or charades.
Diane: They are brilliant and try to involve people without making them feel like an outsider. That’s what I find. I think Dave thought it might be like people sat round in chairs and not doing anything. But it’s not like that, everyone gets involved and it’s good for your brain.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about going to the Day Service? Diane: I would say give it a try, even if it’s just for half a day. I’m sure that once they are there, once they meet the people who are residents and other people like Dave, they will see what it’s about and I’m sure that they would want to go again.
Dave: I’d encourage them all the way to give it a go. Go there and find out for yourself, with an open mind. It’s not what you might think, it’s totally different.
The Westbury Fields Dementia Day Service runs Monday to Friday in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol. To read more about the service, the team and to contact a member of our team visit its dedicated page here.