With our Hertswise dementia hubs closed and face-to-face meetings limited, Bill and Mary were stuck with options on how to meet their friends.

When asked whether they were confident online, Mary laughed and said: “I’m not up on all this technology stuff.”

As meeting other people physically was most likely not an option, the Hertswise Team lent Bill and Mary a tablet, donated from Age UK Hertfordshire.

The team help them set up the tablet and downloaded apps such as Colouring by Numbers, Emails and Zoom. Getting the hang of it all was a bit tricky at first for them both, but with help from Hertswise they we soon able to join their local dementia hub virtually via Zoom.

Mary said: “It was really good being able to see other people’s faces, and Bill enjoyed having chats with another chap, which made a nice change.”

“It’s been great all round support, finding things out for me and regular calls to see if we are doing okay. It’s been great!”

Since her diagnosis of dementia, Heather & her husband Mick, have been attending their local Hertswise dementia hub in Bishops Stortford.

They both thoroughly enjoyed their time at the club, especially Heather as it gave her a chance to read which she loved.

Unfortunately the club had to close in March 2020 due to COVID-19, which lead to a decline of Heathers reading abilities. During a call with Mick, the Hertswise team suggested that they could source Heather a tablet, where an e-reader and talking libraries app could be downloaded.

The team helped Mick to set up the tablet in his name so that he could access that easily.

Mick said: “This has been brilliant! Not only for me but for Heather too – she can now listen to her books.”

“I can’t single one thing out. It’s been great all round support, finding things out for me and regular calls to see if we are doing okay. It’s been great!”

“I wouldn’t know what I would have done without Gill shopping for me during lockdown.”

Lockdown was a new experience for everyone, especially Jackie who had to rely on outside help for basic tasks such as food shopping.

Jackie, 78 years old, has been living with multiple health conditions such as Addison’s disease, Angina and diabetes for some time. She was able to have some form of control over these, but her life flipped upside down when she was in a car accident and injured her spine.

With support given to her by another Age UK Hertfordshire service (the Hospital & Community Navigation Service), she was referred to Hertswise. Jackie was in need of help with her food shopping and she was unable to leave her house as she had to shield – with help from Hertswise she was able to do that safely and with reduced anxiety about who would help her.

Jackie said:

“I am unable to walk far or lift anything and when the weather gets hotter the heat makes my Addison’s worse, meaning I need to take extra medication.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without Gill shopping, I eat healthily and don’t eat meat, and with diabetes I was able draw up my own list it was an absolute godsend I appreciate everything she does. Gill now knows exactly what I have every week and if I forget to put things on the list (which is frequently), she will buy it for me.”

Chris and Jack’s Story

Chris has been caring for her 79 year old husband Jack, since he was diagnosed with unspecified dementia.

Prior to lockdown, Jack was a very happy and sociable man who attended many community groups in East Herts, which gave structure to his day. Chris attended the groups with him as well as volunteering at their local dementia group in Hertford.

During COVID-19, with many days spent at home, Jacks’ dementia progressed both cognitively and physically. Chris increased his personal care and saw a change in his behaviour as he was always wanting to know where Chris was at all times.

Chris explains:

“Nothing ever changes, being tied down is hard. I am completely exhausted.”

“Jack’s dementia has definitely been affected due to lack of routine and social interaction.”

As their weekly dementia group was cancelled, they joined their group online via Zoom, which they both enjoy.

Jack enjoys seeing everyone’s faces and particularly enjoys singing with the group, but has started to struggle with identifying what is real and what is not, believing that individuals taking part in Zoom are sitting in his house”

During the regular wellbeing calls to her Dementia Support Worker, Chris has bought to light the struggles she has been facing and has broken down on a number of occasions as she has been feeling helpless.

With permission from Chris, their Dementia Support Worker arranged for a week’s respite for Jack in Belmont Care Home, as well as arranging for a disabled parking space outside their home to help with getting Jack from the car into their home.

Before Jack went into respite, we agreed that we would complete a garden visit with him, as he would greatly benefit from face to face contact. We discussed the possibility of a joint garden visit with a couple from the Hertford group as they get on very well, with different activities and quizzes.

Chris has been over the moon with the amount of help she has been given by the Hertswise Team saying:

“…the thing is having the ability to get up and go as and when I please is the part I enjoy the most, I don’t have to be doing anything special because the freedom is the special bit, we don’t realise how lucky we are to have it until it has gone…”