We brought Ian’s beloved family together to mark his 60th birthday

Ian, a former soldier, has been living with frontotemporal dementia for a decade and we brought his beloved family together to mark his 60th birthday. He loved seeing his grandchildren play at the party arranged by our dedicated team here at Barrowhill Hall, a 74-bedroom residential and nursing home on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border.

Ian left the 22 Signal Regiment in 2006 after 22 years of service and became a technical support worker for Derbyshire police. As he approached his 50th birthday signs of his condition began to emerge, and he was medically retired after his diagnosis. He has lived at our home’s young onset dementia household, Churnet Lodge, for seven years.

Our specialist team have adapted their skills to suit Ian’s needs as his condition has progressed. His family have become part of our household too and the team understand the power they have to still touch his emotions.

Ian’s wife, Wendy Burton, says, “Everyone went above and beyond to make Ian’s 60th a special event. It was heart-warming and lovely for us to have that memory as a family. It means a lot that the home were able to create that for us.

“The team at Churnet Lodge are so supportive and welcoming and they do everything they can to keep Ian well and content. Over the last two years he has continued to deteriorate, he needs complete support and has recently lost the ability to walk.

“As a family we have to accept these changes and we talk openly about what we are going to face. There is still some recognition from him and he likes to watch our two grandchildren play.”

His party was held in our lounge overlooking the grounds and countryside with live music, buffet food and a special tank cake – a tribute to Ian’s military career. Ian’s grandchildren were in attendance along with family, friends, residents and team members.

The party took place just ahead of Dementia Awareness Week and since his diagnosis Wendy has become a carer herself and dedicates her time to raising awareness about rare forms of dementia.

“I attend seminars and I am a volunteer with Rare Dementia Support,” she says. “Our aim is for people to ask what type of dementia someone has as opposed to thinking of Alzheimer’s if someone discloses they have dementia. Bruce Willis’ diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia last year, the same type Ian has, helped to raise awareness and it would be great to keep this momentum.

“I also work with the education team at Derby Royal giving ‘Expert by Experience’ interviews to medical students. When they are fully trained and our GP’s of the future they will have a better understanding of the typical traits of someone who has frontotemporal dementia and the difficulties facing carers and family members.

“The team at Barrowhill Hall have been a pillar of support and I can always turn to them for information too. It’s lovely to be able to take this knowledge and my experience and use it to help others when I’m out in the community.”

Our home manager, Dania Meadows, says, “Education around dementia is incredibly important and people like Wendy are integral to raising awareness. We do everything we can to provide outstanding care, give reassurance to families and to try and alleviate people’s worries and concerns about their dementia journeys.

“It’s been a privilege to be able to care for Ian during his time here and we will continue to do so, supporting his family every step of the way. It was lovely to be able to mark his 60th birthday bringing his loved ones together for the occasion.”

(Ian and Wendy Wedding Day August 1986)

(Ian age 22 as a soldier in the Falkland Islands)

(Ian visiting the National Memorial Arboretum on Royal Signals Day 2023)

Ian’s 60th birthday story was covered by the BBC Online, Burton Mail, Derby Telegraph, Ashbourne News Telegraph and the Buxton Advertiser.
Ian, his wife Wendy and his family have done so much to spread awareness about frontotemporal dementia – helping others by sharing their story. Please see some of the news stories below:



Residents at our care home had a ‘hoot’ meeting feathery Harry Potter star


The residents and staff at our care home recently enjoyed meeting a cast member from the Harry Potter films and we were starstruck by the feathery celebrity.

The VIP attended a community open day here at Barrowhill Hall, our 74-bedroom residential and nursing home, which specialises in caring for those living with dementia and memory loss, on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border.

The snowy owl, previously called Annabelle but now affectionately known as Hedwig, starred as Harry Potter’s pet owl in the early Harry Potter films. She was brought to the event by Kingsley Bird and Falconry Centre based in Cheadle.

Our resident, Jean Langton, 89, is a huge Harry Potter fan and she enjoyed the ‘meet-and-greet’ experience with her husband, Ken. The couple were celebrating their wedding anniversary of 61 years, and this experience made it an extra special day for them.

“It was a fantastic wedding anniversary treat,” Jean says, “it made our day! Hedwig was very exciting to hold. I felt very proud, and I can’t believe I’ve been so close to a Harry Potter star!”

June McNicol, 84, lives in Cheadle and attended the open day with her daughter, Sally-Ann Davis, who is our activities lead at the home.

Sally-Ann says, “When Mum heard a snowy owl was visiting Barrowhill Hall she couldn’t wait to drive up and see it. She absolutely loves birds of prey and my brother used to keep them. She was really excited, and Hedwig didn’t disappoint.”

In addition to the snowy owl, The Falconry Centre brought in two barn owls and a Harris’ Hawk for everyone to meet. For our nursing residents unable to meet the birds in the home’s large garden they also made a special appearance in residents’ bedrooms.

“We want all our activities to be inclusive,” Sally-Ann says, “and we tailor them for all abilities. The residents couldn’t believe it when an owl came into their room. They certainly weren’t expecting that!

“For many of our residents meeting a snowy owl up close was a new experience. As well as being fun and enjoyable, like with many of our animal visits, you can also see first-hand the calming, soothing effect pet therapy has on our residents.”

Holding the hawk was the highlight for Ian Burton, 59, a resident at Churnet Lodge, the home’s separate household for those living with young onset dementia. He was joined by his family members including his wife, Wendy and their 6-year-old grandson, Charlie.

“The birds made it for Ian, you could see how much he loved holding them,” Wendy says. “It was a great experience.”

“My grandson enjoyed seeing the birds, but meeting Spiderman was his favourite part!”

Alongside the costume character the open day offered a variety of activities throughout the afternoon, including a bouncy castle, live music, and an army truck visit.

For our home, open days like these are not only an important way of keeping our residents connected with the community but they also create enjoyable new experiences for our residents and their loved ones.

Sally-Ann explains; “We always offer a variety of activities here, some are intended to evoke memories and reflection to help our residents feel secure and comforted and others, are about creating new memories. We are always keen for our residents to try new things – like meet a celebrity owl – and we support them to live stimulating and fulfilling lives.

“Our events bring people together. We love to keep our residents connected with the community and create opportunities where our residents and their loved ones can make new memories and enjoy a special day together. It’s always worth it when you see the joy on everyone’s faces!”

Our care home manager, Dania Meadows says, “The best thing about the day was having everyone come together as one big family. Our residents’ loved ones are an extension of our home, and we support them as much as we support the residents.

“The birds were a big hit and they were great with our residents, we were glad the owl, despite its celebrity status wasn’t too high maintenance and we look forward to welcoming all the birds back soon!”




Elvis and the Elves make it a musical Christmas at our festive fair

It was anything but a ‘Blue Christmas’ for our residents when they were treated to a visit by Elvis and his Elves.

Local entertainer, James McGrath, brought the King’s festive magic to Barrowhill Hall for our Christmas fair on Saturday 7th December, allowing residents to reminisce about the hits of bygone days.

He was supported by our suitably dressed activities team.

“Elves have been a theme for us this month,” said Becky Buckley, Activities Manager at the 74 bedroomed dementia care and nursing home.

“We extended ‘Elf Day’ in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society to run for longer so we could raise more money, and elves seemed the perfect accompaniment to Elve-is!”

We welcomed families who came to spend time with their loved ones.  Resident Ian Sutton’s six grandchildren came to see him and enjoy the fun.

Little boy receiving a present from Santa and his elf
Four year old Bobby Scott loved meeting Santa

Santa welcomed children into his grotto to hear their wishes for Christmas.  Four year old Bobby Scott from Uttoxeter was thrilled to meet him and receive a present.

The children also got to meet the ‘Pets as Therapy’ dogs who visit once a month and bring calming contact and quiet affection to those living with dementia and memory loss.

“It was a fantastic afternoon,” said Becky.  “Bobby’s family decided to come along – they don’t have a loved one living here but they’d seen our posters locally.

“They said what a lovely afternoon they had and thought it was a wonderful event for our residents.”

A choir performing with keyboard accompaniament
The Something Else Choir

The Christmas fair also included entertainment from the ‘Something Else’ choir.

There were gift stalls from local businesses including Paula’s Petals from Rocester.  The tombola stall raised £80 towards activities for residents to enjoy.

“We love it when families come in and have fun with us, whether they have a relative here or not” said home manager, Matthew Whitfield.

“My little boy is nearly two and he loves the music and the decorations.

“We couldn’t quite manage three kings this Christmas but the one we did have was all we needed!”