Dementia Friendly Swimming Lessons make a difference

Thursday 30 June 2016

An 86-year-old man from Barnard Castle swims regularly to help him live well with dementia.

Fred Braithwaite began attending the Dementia Friendly Swimming sessions at Teesdale leisure centre in July 2015.

The facility, which is run by Durham County Council, was one of the flagship centres for the ASA's Dementia Friendly Swimming project, launched in February 2015.

Fred, who used to run a sweet shop, a fish shop and also drove taxis, has been living with dementia for the past five years with his wife Jean being his full time carer.

 Since joining the sessions, Jean has noticed how relaxed Fred is both during and after swimming.

Jean said: "It's made a big difference. He likes being in the water, it seems to relax Fred. He's happier and it makes a difference in his temper not only while he's swimming but for the rest of the day."

Before joining Dementia Friendly Swimming, Fred hadn't been in a pool since his last family holiday 5 years ago; this was just before he was diagnosed. His family noticed then that he found it difficult and seemed to have forgotten how to swim.

The couple decided to join the lessons as it was something Fred has always enjoyed but hasn't had the chance to do for several years. It also gives the couple the opportunity to meet other people in a similar situation.

Jean adds: "I think one of the other reasons he likes coming is because he likes the company as well. He's happier when he's out talking to people and the staff at Teesdale Leisure Centre are so helpful and friendly. They do everything they can for us, not just in the class.

By taking part in healthy activity, it means the couple get a good night's sleep. This has the knock on effect of Fred being in a better mood, and Jean feels more able to cope.

Deborah Breen, our specialist interventions officer (dementia), explains why these sessions are important: "Having a diagnosis of dementia doesn't mean someone has to stop taking part in an activity that they enjoy. The Dementia Friendly Swimming sessions give people in County Durham living with dementia an opportunity to keep active and socialise with others in a similar situation."

Dementia Friendly Swimming sessions at Teesdale Leisure Centre are every Tuesday between 10.45am and 11.45am.

Sessions are also available at Freeman's Quay Leisure Centre and Chester-le-Street Leisure Centre, also operated by Durham County Council.