WHILE dementia sufferers may be struggling with memory loss, speech and mental agility, this in no way means they have nothing left to look forward to in life.

And this is what Mark MacNeany, unit manager at Whitbourne House in Park South, set out to prove when he invited a group of patients on a fishing trip to Poole to help jog their memories and give them new opportunities to try and create new ones.

Six residents, some keen anglers, accompanied by carers travelled down to Dorset for a spot of fishing along the coast and to breathe in the fresh sea air.

“The main reason for taking people out was to provide and promote some form of independence,” said Mark, who runs the SEQOL care home.

“People who come into homes rarely do anything but their lives are far from over. At the end of the day people with dementia still have a life. They need to keep their life as normal as possible.

“One of the chaps we took out was ex-Navy so he was in his element. Another one had tears in his eyes; he didn’t want to get off the boat. It was a fabulous day.”

He added: “It helped to evoke old memories for them. In some cases dementia has a terrible effect on memory and some people might not remember what they had for lunch yesterday but they remembered what they did on Friday – they went fishing.

“They may not remember in a week or two but even if they only remember for the moment it makes a big difference.”

The experience was very positive for all but organising the trip itself was no mean feat.

Ignorance and prejudice are still rife despite the spread of dementia and obstacles are numerous for anyone trying to plan activities for people with the debilitating condition.

“When you mention dementia, people associate it with mental health and shy away from it,” Mark added. “When we have tried to go to hotels, what’s happened in the past is they provide a side room, and not to have them in the main room.

“But we don’t want that. We want them to be treated with dignity and respect. I want leisure activities to become more accessible and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Mark is planning another three fishing trips in Poole in August for dementia sufferers and a fourth for people with physical disabilities and learning difficulties.