Ali & her mum, Sue

Ali’s lovely mum, Sue, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2021.

Like many of us when suddenly faced with just this sort of situation, Ali wanted to find out all she could about the condition, so she and her sisters could better understand what was going on for Sue, and how they could help her.

Amazon offered a her number of books on the topic, and one of them was ‘Contented Dementia’ by Oliver James.
And although she says she didn’t actually read that one for a while, she wishes she’d started with it!

Here, Ali takes up the story …

“We really struggled to know best how to facilitate mum being as happy as possible, and often used to find ourselves stuck or going round in circles trying to reassure her, often by trying to reason which just didn’t work.

I am an Occupational Therapist and one of my sisters is a nurse, the other a teacher, but we all still felt we were often making things worse rather than better.”

Q. How do you feel applying the SPECAL method helped turn things around for you all?

“Following the golden rules, and other tactics suggested in the book has made a huge difference, and enabled us to feel less useless and that we have strategies to try to keep mum as happy , or actually as content as possible.

Mum spent a couple of months in hospital last year, some of it on an acute ward, and we all found that time very difficult. From there she went to a care home. We all visit several times a week, and still use the SPECAL principles all the time.

We are able to spend nice times with mum, and deal with the tricky times much better than before.

Sometimes we have come across situations where we have struggled to know how to apply the SPECAL approach. On one occasion I have for support via your Facebook page, and in another by email. I actually received a very long phone call late that night from Penny which was full of practical ideas as well as emotional support. I vowed that evening that I would fundraise to support your charity. “


Machu Picchu, Peru

Q. What have you (very kindly!) decided to tackle, on our behalf, to raise funds?

“I decided I was going to do a tough, mountainous overseas trek, as this is something I love doing but yet find very challenging. So I decided that I’d attempt the trek to Machu Picchu!

I think I’ll find the trek hard, but both doing the trek and the fundraising activities to support it will help me feel I’m doing something to support mum, and to say thank you for the help we’ve received.  I’m also hoping it will raise awareness of Contented Dementia so other families in our situation can also use the helpful ideas. “


Q. Tell me about your family and your mum – what’s she like and what does she enjoy doing?

“She was brought up in Blackpool and met dad at teacher-training college in Derby. She worked as a primary school teacher until I was born, and then had my two sisters. We lived in various parts of the north-west.

Once we were all at school she began working as head of care at a residential special school where dad was the headteacher. Dad later took early retirement and became a vicar, and mum became a full-time vicar’s wife. She had always been very involved in church -leading youth groups, bible study groups, preaching and was involved in training licenced readers after becoming a reader herself.”



“However, mum has always primarily been a family woman. She was always there when we were young, providing practical and emotional support (and also telling us off when that was required!). Then she was heavily involved in her grandchildren’s care- driving an hour each way to look after all 6 of them at different points. For decades she spent a day a week doing this, as her grandchildren ages spread from 11-31.

Mum still likes nothing better than being with her family and friends and looking after people. She often feels she works at the care home, and is busy checking everyone is ok and sorting out any problems she discovers.”



Thank you, Ali, from everyone at the Contented Dementia Trust . We will be following your progress and of course, updating your story over the months to come!

If you’d like to help Ali reach her target amount to begin her trek in aid of the Contented Dementia Trust, please have a look at her Just Giving page.