Soldiers from MOD Stafford brought back precious memories of a Forces career to Ian Burton, who at 50 years old was diagnosed with behaviourial variant fronto-temporal dementia.
The condition can bring about changes in behaviour and personality. As it progresses can affect the person’s memory and ability to speak.
Now aged 53, Ian lives with us at Churnet Lodge, where soldiers from the 22nd Signal Regiment visited him.
“Ian loved his Army career,” said his wife, Wendy. “He joined aged 21 and served with the Signals, working all over the world including the Falkland Islands and Iraq.
“Because it’s not that long ago since he left, the soldiers who came to Churnet Lodge remembered some of the people he served with. They loved looking at his old photographs.
“Ian doesn’t have much speech now but you could see how engaged and how happy he was that they were there.”
Ian completed 22 years of service then became a technical support worker for Derbyshire Police. But as he approached his 50th birthday the signs of his condition began to emerge.
“He was one of their best staff,” remembers Wendy, “but the nature of his type of dementia meant he lost the ability to plan and carry out tasks as he had been doing. He had to medically retire two years ago.”
Dementia is ‘young onset’ when it affects people under the age of 65. There are an estimated 42,000 people with the condition in the UK although the actual figure could be higher because it can be difficult to diagnose.
“A pleasure and an honour.”
Staff Sergeant David Tuck, Captain Becky Parkinson and Corporal Patrick Hearne also spent time talking to residents who’d served in the Navy, the RAF and the Army.
“It was a pleasure and an honour to meet Ian and the other residents,” said Staff Sergeant Tuck.
“Since our visit we’ve been able to identify and contact a number of people who remember Ian and they are making plans to visit him.”
SSgt Tuck also asked if he could take Ian’s medals with him to remount them as their ribbons were showing some wear. He and his colleagues returned them in pristine condition the next day.
Val Barnes, our activities co-ordinator, helped to organise the visit. “Active reminiscence is so important for people with dementia. Ian clearly enjoyed the soldiers being here and the effects of their visit stayed with him all weekend. It had a huge impact on many of our other residents, too.”
Wendy, who works as a dementia advisor for the charity Making Space in Derby, makes a 40 mile round-trip three times a week to see her husband. Churnet Lodge is one of the few care homes in the area able to cater for people with young onset dementia.
“I spent a year trying to find somewhere suitable for him,” said Wendy. “Churnet Lodge feels like home to him and to me.”
“Organising visits like this shows how much care they put into making life meaningful for Ian and everyone else who lives here. I can’t wait to see how rediscovering his friends and colleagues will benefit him.”