Richard’s Story

“A great opportunity to learn from and help support other RAF personnel in a similar situation.”

Squadron Leader Richard Lewis, stationed at RAF High Wycombe, has watched both his parents suffer with dementia. His father died from the condition when Richard was growing up, and his mother, Freda, was diagnosed four years ago.

Sqn Ldr Richard Lewis
Sqn Ldr Richard Lewis

Richard’s Story

“A great opportunity to learn from and help support other RAF personnel in a similar situation.”

Squadron Leader Richard Lewis, stationed at RAF High Wycombe, has watched both his parents suffer with dementia. His father died from the condition when Richard was growing up, and his mother, Freda, was diagnosed four years ago.

Working together, he, his sister and their aunt have ensured that Freda, now 76, is cared for at an assisted-living centre in the family’s native Newcastle. But despite the professional care his mother receives, Richard has found his working life impacted by supporting her.

Richard, who at 41 has served for 16 years, said: “I actually considered leaving the RAF at one point because, in order to take on my share of care responsibilities, I had to travel very long distances.

“Fortunately, I was offered a more flexible working arrangement, so I’ve been able to stay with the RAF while supporting my mother.”

When Richard learned of a research workshop for members of the RAF family who are caring for loved ones with dementia, he leapt at the opportunity. He was keen to share his experiences in the hope that better support mechanisms could be developed for people in similar situations.

Richard said: “There were several other serving personnel at the workshop, which took place at the Royal Air Forces Association’s Head Office in Leicester. We soon began swapping stories of how caring for relatives with dementia had affected our work, and our lives in general.”

The workshop was part of a joint research project by the RAF Association and Alzheimer’s Society to study the effects of caring for people with dementia over long distances. The charities are now developing initiatives to support people like Richard and their families.

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