She is on

By Jan Patience

WHEN Carol Sargent was a wee girl growing up in Aberdeen in the 1960s and 70s, family holidays were spent not just with her younger sister and her parents, but with her grandparents too. On these getaways, spent in places like Portsoy, the three generations would happily get on with doing their own thing, coming together for days out and for meal-times.

Once Carol had her own children, Emma and Ben, now in their twenties, she and her husband Gary, continued with this tradition, going on holiday with Carol's parents, Liz and Ian, as well as Gary's widowed mum, Iris.

Time started to run out on these family holidays when Carol's mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer's in 2007. Initially, following the diagnosis, Liz and Ian made regular visits from their home in Fife to Carol and Gary's home in Leicestershire.

According to Carol, this gave her father, a retired academic, a well-earned break and her mother, a retired teacher, a change of scene. "Sadly, as Mum’s condition progressed the visits to Leicestershire became too complicated," Carol explains, "so we started renting cottages in Northumberland."

It was during one of these family holidays, helping with caring responsibilities and giving her dad a break, that Carol, a pharmaceutical scientist, came up with the idea of running supported dementia-friendly holidays for people like her mum and dad.

"I could see how much both my mum and dad got out of being on holiday," she says. "Having other adults there to help lifted the pressure from my dad and they could spend the time together as a couple enjoying the things they always enjoyed doing together."

So in 2014, at the age of 50, Carol decided to quit her job and set up MindforYou. In 2015, the new venture welcomed its first guests on a holiday in Norfolk, offering a short-break with 12-hour-support on hand for both the person living with dementia and their partners, family-members or friends.

Since then, the company has provided tailored holidays for just under 1000 people living with dementia and their families, and the opportunity to have a five-day break in 13 different destinations across the UK. The dementia-friendly luxury holiday properties span the length of the UK, from the so-called English Riviera of East Devon to Grantown-on-Spey in the heart of the Cairngorms.

Margaret Gordon and her husband Alan, who live in Gullane in East Lothian, are two of the guests who have enjoyed a MindforYou holiday. Alan, a retired accountant, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's five years ago. They went on their first MindforYou break last year after Margaret had heard about the holidays through a friend.

"Not long after we found out Alan had Alzheimer's, we joined the Let's Sing choir in Musselburgh for people living with dementia and their carers. We've been going every week for the last four years and have got to know people in a similar situation, which is a great support.

"Early last year I was talking with some of the other carers about how holidays are so difficult when your partner has dementia, and one of them mentioned she'd just been on a MindforYou break with her husband and they'd loved it.

"It turned out another two people in the choir had been on holidays with them too and they couldn't recommend it highly enough. So I went home and phoned for a brochure.

"Initially, I was keen on us going to Fife because it would be easy for us to get there from East Lothian, especially if a family member drove us, but there wasn't one scheduled until later in the year and I couldn't wait that long, having decided we definitely needed a break! So I chose a holiday on the Mains of Taymouth Country Estate near Kenmore in Perthshire in August last year.

"The process was very smooth. Once I had booked up, someone from MindforYou came to the house to talk to us about all our requirements and concerns. One of the things I wanted was a cooked breakfast and that was duly noted. They couldn't have been more helpful at answering all my questions. Alan checked out the photographs in the brochure and said: 'they're all old!' and I had to laugh. 'But we're old,' I told him. We are both 82!

"We'd been to Perthshire on caravan holidays with our children more than 40 years previously and we'd also had our Golden Wedding anniversary in Killin, but Alan didn't remember any of it. When the time came to go, our daughter drove us to Pitlochry and we met the rest of the guests and the staff in Pitlochry."

The Gordons stayed along with other guests and two support staff members, at the luxurious Farmhouse at Mains of Taymouth. On that particular holiday the couple were joined by another couple and a woman who had been on a MindforYou holiday previously who was living with dementia.

Initially, the couple were allocated a bedroom upstairs; which Margaret describes as "the best room in the place" but because her mobility is not good and she now walks with two sticks, they were very quickly sorted out with a room downstairs. All the rooms on MindforYou holidays have en-suites.

According to Margaret, the days at Kenmore flew past. "There was a little anxiety at the start because neither of us knew what to expect. For me, being able to relax and know that everything was being taken care of, from the food, to the excursions to Alan being looked after, was wonderful. Alan can't remember the people who were there, but he still talks about his fellow guests and the carers as being 'a nice crowd'. He doesn't remember the names but remembers the feeling he had while he was there," she explains.

MindForYou offers a mix of excursions, activities and sociable mealtimes which are all optional but well worth participating in, says Margaret. "We also had various outings; to Pitlochry, Blair Castle in Blair Atholl and the Scottish Crannog Centre in Aberfeldy. The weather wasn't great but it's Scotland in summer, so you know what to expect!

"In the holiday home, which was beautiful, I got the chance to have a Reiki session with Christine, one of the MindforYou support team members while Alan went for a walk with Raymond, another staff member, and a guest with dementia. We even joined in with sitting exercises to music, which I thought Alan would not do – but he did.

"Going on a holiday like this takes off all the pressure and everyone enjoys it more. On past holidays since the Alzheimer's diagnosis, I was always worrying about Alan; where he was and if he was fine, but this time, because I knew he was being looked after when he wasn't with me, I could relax.

"We've always loved music and Alan brought his guitar and one night we even had a sign-song. I believe there's a video on MindforYou's Facebook page with us singing the folk song, If You Will Marry Me."

The Gordons enjoyed their break away from the everyday pressures of living with dementia so much that Margaret has booked another holiday for later this year; this time in Northumberland. One of the add-on services which MindforYou offers is a door-to-door travel service if necessary so the couple will make use of that because their family are all working through the week.

Margaret, who used to run courses for adults returning to learning at Edinburgh University before she retired, remains upbeat and excited about their forthcoming holiday. "We both love gardens and we can't wait to see the poison gardens at Alnwick Castle, she says. "We are very lucky. Alan has a type of Alzheimer's which sees a slow and steady progression. He does not wander and he is not aggressive. And we have a lovely family.

"Not long ago, cancer was not mentioned – or it was called the C-Word. Now that has changed. It has to be the same with dementia. It has to be lived with and lived well. My motto is that you have to get on with it and keep your sense of humour."


Prices for a MindforYou holiday start at £955 per person. For more information call for a 2020 brochure on 01509 351008 or go to for details of up-coming holidays and how to book.