“We wouldn’t have Dad if we didn’t have Alzheimer’s Support’s groups,” says Lilian, who drives her father Pete and mum Mary to our activities in and around Chippenham. “He’s ready and out of the door before we are.”

Retired farmer Pete, who lives with vascular dementia, is an enthusiastic member of the Music for the Mind, Memory Café, Art and Muddy Boots groups, despite saying before he joined each one that he wasn’t that keen to go.

“They're brilliant. They keep your mind off everything and nothing is too much trouble for the staff and volunteers. I can’t speak highly enough of them,” says Pete. “While I’m at the group I don’t think about anything else other than what I'm doing there. We go for the company and they treat you as though there’s nothing wrong with you which is the most important thing."

The art group is a particular favourite of Pete's. Even though he had never considered himself an artist, the group has sparked a talent in him and a picture he painted has been used on an Alzheimer’s Support thank you card. Since losing his sight in December 2019 Pete continues to attend the group and participates fully. Fran, the teacher, sticks tape down on a sheet of paper so Pete can feel the borders and he colours in between the shapes with his fingers.

Mary is keen for him to get out of the house and maintain a positive attitude and comes along with him to all the groups. They couple have been married for 53 years and still clearly enjoy one another’s company. “We have so many laughs and don’t look on the downside,” she says.

Pete was diagnosed with dementia three years ago after a series of mini strokes. “I try not to let it change my life,” he says. “I used to get really angry with myself because I can’t remember things, but now I just get up every day and take it as it comes. I don’t know what I would be like if I didn’t have groups.  I would probably just stay in bed and I don’t want to get like that.”

Mary agrees. “If Pete was at home all the time he’d be not very happy. He always asks what he can do at home though and helps with the hoovering and cooking dinner. In the summer we will be out putting plants in the garden. I won’t allow him to mope around and it pays off.”

As Pete’s carer Mary has drawn on her experience of her father’s illness when she was younger to support him when he becomes confused. “When my dad had cancer and was hallucinating I decided to go along with it all with him,” she says. “It’s really been the same with Pete and it settles him down. You can’t get angry with the person because they don’t know it’s not real, to them it is.”

Attending the Carers' group has also helped her gain insight into Pete’s illness, as well as benefit from the camaraderie and sharing of stories and experiences with other members. “I’ve had to come to terms with his illness,” she says. “We talk about the different aspects of it and the times in which they develop. It helps to know we’re not alone and can get help and have a talk if any one of us isn’t coping.”