My guest this week is a pharmaceutical scientist turned social entrepreneur from Leicestershire. Holidays had always been important to her and her family, but when her mum was diagnosed with dementia in 2007 all that changed.
Searching for holiday cottages that would be suitable for her Edinburgh-based parents she discovered that there weren’t any. She’d already scaled back her work so that she could visit her mum and dad in Scotland, and her mother-in-law, who also had dementia, in Liverpool.
And it was at this point, finding herself unable to identify anywhere for her elderly relatives to take a break, that she came up with the idea of Mind for You, a for-profit social enterprise offering personalised holidays to people with dementia and their families.
She – is Carol Sargent and seven years – and one global pandemic later – her co-operative charity Mind for You, with its six permanent staff and pool of 12 freelancers to accompany families on their holidays, has provided 129 breaks for over 1,000 contented guests.
The success of the venture is largely down to Carol’s determination to make everyone’s experience as relaxing and rewarding as possible, always visiting people before their holiday and then giving them the chance to unwind sound in the knowledge that they and their needs and desires are understood.
The result is a break away from home that is just like the traditional family holidays we all know and love. Stunning properties to stay in, beautiful locations, delicious new recipes to try, the joy to be found in exploring a new locality. Everybody is free to do what they want; there’s a flexibility, a spontaneity even, that is so often lacking when dementia’s involved.
“I love the fact that we arrive as strangers and leave as family,” says one staff member.
During the pandemic, when there were no Mind for You holidays for 18months, Carol used the time to expand the business digitally, plan its future and raise money. And now, since the country’s opened back up, there have been several trips to various destinations – from Norfolk to Perthshire, the Cotswolds to the Highlands, the Peak District to Dorset. All carried out in a spirit of fun and warmth.
To Carol, caring is a skill, it’s all about knowing the person. “The holidays allow us to embrace dementia and get to know people quicker”, she says. “It’s a laugh a minute and everything that’s said is honest, there’s no hidden agenda”.