Duncan Baxter was angry and in shock when he was diagnosed with dementia three years ago. He’d had a rewarding career in the police force, including as a village bobby and a custody officer. 

The champion bowler and umpire enjoyed an active social life and foreign holidays with wife, Lynn. The couple have been together for 27 years and have known each other since childhood.

They first noticed Duncan’s memory loss after he suffered a serious head injury while on duty. Duncan had also had several previous head injuries, including at the age of 14 and in 1986 when he was attacked with a bottle when sent in to police a confrontation during the miners' strike.

After 2014 the symptoms got worse and by 2016 he had a series of minor strokes, which led to the dementia diagnosis.

Duncan said: “I knew what dementia could look like and that wasn’t me. So it was easier not to do much about it.”

How Duncan first experienced Alzheimer's

Lyn said: “It was very difficult at first as Duncan would get very cross, his father had had Alzheimer’s disease and he said he didn’t want to end up like him.” And with no family close by, Lyn was finding her caring role challenging.

However, as Duncan and Lyn started getting to know staff at Alzheimer’s Support and finding out more about the illness, he decided to give the Old Silk Works day club in Warminster a go.

He said: “When I came to the club I was treated with such understanding and kindness. I saw others who were much further along and they were treated the same. I realised then there wasn’t anything to be frightened of as I would be treated like that too. The love bounces off the walls there.

How the Old Silk Works Club helped Duncan cope with his dementia

“I have never felt so comfortable in my life as when I'm in the club and couldn’t be happier when I'm there. I really look forward to coming. I lead a weekly quiz now and I prepare for that at home so the club is with me even when I'm not there.

“It has changed how I feel about dementia and it has changed my life.”

Meanwhile Lynn has made new friends at one of the charity’s Carers’ Groups, which meet regularly to socialise and share experiences.

She said: “It’s been my lifesaver and I’ve learned so much from other carers about Duncan’s illness.

 “I first met Maria there, when she was caring for her father and through our conversations I now understand more about dementia and don’t take things so personally. I used to think I was imagining things in terms of Duncan’s symptoms –he would say he hadn’t forgotten things and that I’d got it wrong, but Maria explained that was part of the illness. I lean on her and know I can call her if I need to.

“Maria volunteers at the Old Silk Works now and all the girls who work there said I can ring them too.

 “Since joining the Carers’ Group I don’t feel so alone and I’ve realised I shouldn’t worry so much. We all feel alone until we talk to one another.”

 “I would say to other carers, keep asking for help – and join the Carers’ Group!”

Find out more about Day Clubs and Support for Carers

Duncan's skydive for dementia