Warwickshire couple 'brought together' through dementia support group

image captionThe couple, who have grown-up children, will marry at Compton Verney House, where Paul proposed

A couple who met in a support group for carers of partners with dementia are set to marry.

Heather Brown and Paul Dowler first met at a cafe she set up to support carers which they now run jointly.

"It is just really, really hard to watch a loved one just fade when you can't communicate with them and you can't reach out to them," she said.

The Warwickshire couple, who are due to marry in September, said they found a connection after some difficult years.

"Because both our loved ones had dementia that's what brought us together," Mrs Brown, 61, said.

Mr Dowler, also 61, added: "It's incredible really that dementia is such a cruel illness and ironically because we have both been through it, here we are."

image captionThey have helped develop an allotment in Wellesbourne as a space for people affected by dementia

The experience of caring for his late wife Mary through a seven-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer's, made Mr Dowler want to help others in a similar position, he said.

"It's like a living nightmare, people have absolutely no idea," he said.

The illness changed Mary from a "highly-intelligent solicitor" to someone who did not know where she was.

"She lost interest in everything, she didn't know who she was and she didn't know who I was. I felt so sad for Mary," he said.

image copyrightFamily photo
image captionPaul said Mary, his wife of 30 years, lost interest in all aspects of her life as Alzheimer's took hold

He ended up having to lock the doors of their house for her safety and said their lives had taken a "180-degree handbrake turn".

"No-one knows what to expect, you do feel so alone," he said.

Mrs Brown's husband Dave, who died in 2018, suffered from a form of vascular dementia, which progressed rapidly.

She set up the cafe five years ago through the Warwickshire Reminiscence Action Project (WRAP).

As a carer "you lose the life that you had" and support was vital as social connection diminishes, she said.

image copyrightHeather Brown
image captionMrs Brown said her late husband Dave was "community-minded" which inspired her to help people

The cafe at Wellesbourne Village Hall, which is run by volunteers, was used by about 40 people before lockdown began last March.

It re-opened in April with coronavirus restrictions in place.

The couple, who both have grown-up children, want to work together supporting carers and people with dementia and have developed an allotment in Kineton Road as a space for gardening activities.

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