April 6, 2020

Social isolation is hard for everyone, especially when it means being separated from much-loved children and grandchildren. Kate and John’s Wilkinson’s family have come up with an ingenious solution – Cuddle Vouchers which can be ‘cashed in’ once lockdown is over.

Kate said: “Up to lockdown we saw our grandchildren Chloe (13) and Matthew (11) two or three times a week. Now Chloe helps out with shopping and leaves it at our front door. When she gets to the gate, we open the door, talk and blow kisses.

“One time Chloe said: ‘Don’t worry, we are saving all your cuddles and kisses up and you can have them all when this is over’.” And then the cuddle vouchers arrived. "I think they will work like a loyalty card in that the days spent in isolation will be stamped on the side in return for cuddles!”

Living with dementia in lockdown

John, who lives with dementia, is keeping busy during lockdown by doing jigsaws. Kate also ordered an old copy of The National Songbook that he remembers from school. “He spends hours looking at it and it brings back memories."

He has enjoyed the singing sessions with Alzheimer's Support via Zoom and the couple are also receiving regular phone calls from the charity's staff to check on their wellbeing and to see if there is anything else they need.

Help from Alzheimer's Support

The couple, who live near Warminster, met in 1961 when John was Kate’s driving instructor. They married in 1964 and John was diagnosed with dementia at the end of 2018. “At the time I thought it was the end of the world,” said Kate, but she found that attending Alzheimer's Support's Movement for the Mind sessions helped them both. “We found the group very warm and friendly and can I say, normal. From there we gradually started attending other things together and I started getting things in perspective.”

Visits from Alzheimer's Support's Dementia Adviser and Support Worker have also benefited them.

Kate said: “I realised I was so wound up about the whole thing that I would snap. It felt as if I was on duty 24/7 and needed time to hand over the reins to someone else. Carol and Alison are a godsend and not only do I get time to myself, they also seem to stimulate John too as he is definitely much happier and talkative after their visits.”  

John now also attends the charity's Old Silk Works Day Club in Warminster, despite not being keen on the idea initially and taking a while to get used to it.  He will be returning once lockdown is over.

“I insisted he go and told him it was for my benefit as I had a lot to do. However, now, he really loves it and almost gallops up the ramp to the Silk Works without a backward glance."