An East Lancashire woman has spoken about her experience of dementia to push back against negative stereotypes and show how a day care group has given her husband a new lease of life.

This Dementia Action Week, which runs from Monday, May 13 to Sunday, May 19, Kathleen Craven, from Rawtenstall, has shared the story of how her husband, Bill, now spends one day a week with a carer having previously felt very isolated.

Dementia is a progressive, terminal condition caused by diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Common symptoms include changes in memory, thinking, and behaviour, which worsen over time, but with treatment and support, people can live well with the condition for some time.

Lancashire Telegraph: Kathleen and Bill CravenKathleen and Bill Craven (Image: The Filo Project)

Former teacher Kathleen said: “Bill was diagnosed not long after we got married in 2019 and it was a struggle getting a referral, so by the time we got the diagnosis his Alzheimer’s was advanced.

“He struggles to recall memories and get his words out, but a few months ago he started attending a Filo Project dementia group in Baxenden and it’s really helped both of us.

“He goes to Kate, the host’s, home for a day every week with two other gentlemen, and the social interactions and activities help stimulate him.

"He plays dominoes and likes helping out Kate, and is a big fan of her homemade meat pie and puddings!

“The homely environment is exactly what he needs, it doesn’t feel institutional. Now the weather is getting better, they’ll be heading to Kate’s allotment to potter.

READ MORE: The Filo Project wins Fit for Life award to help expansion

“When Bill was first diagnosed we felt very isolated. We got some leaflets and medication and then were left to our own devices.

"I’m very proactive but it’s still hard to navigate the dementia system and find out what help is available.

“Lots of people feel isolated and don’t want to ask for any help but I’m always open in asking for it. Just last week he wandered off at a garden centre and staff were so helpful. People do help if you ask for it.

“If you have a loved one with dementia, I recommend you get them started with support straight away.

"With The Filo Project, Bill feels like a part of a family group and is engaged in things. He’s never been much of a hobby person, and this gives him a routine and structure which really helps manage his symptoms.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Kathleen and Bill on their wedding dayKathleen and Bill on their wedding day (Image: The Filo Project)

The Filo Project is an award-winning social enterprise offering unique dementia day care within hosts’ homes for small groups of socially isolated older people with early to moderate dementia.

Hosts collect small groups of clients and drive them to their home for a shared, joyful day and a home-cooked lunch.

The day is not prescriptive and activities flex to each group’s interests and abilities, such as baking, jigsaws, singing, or crafting.

Libby Price, co-founder of The Filo Project, said: “A dementia diagnosis is awful and unwanted but it doesn’t mean the end of a fulfilling life.

"Nearly a million people in the UK are living with dementia, and many are still able to enjoy life, contribute to the community and even work. Yet we tend to only see terrible stereotypes and the later stages of dementia depicted on TV or in film.

“Every day at Filo groups we see how life with dementia can still be a life well-lived. Dementia takes so much from families and is incredibly challenging. But it’s not a living death.

"People can still flourish and experience joy and humour if we treat them as the valued person they still are.”