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Crews reignite memories for retired firefighter living with dementia

Doug Holgate revisits Strood fire station.jpg

21 February 2020

Firefighters were able to reignite treasured memories for a retired colleague living with dementia.

Today (21 February), crews welcomed Doug Holgate to Strood fire station, where he was a station commander until he left Kent Fire and Rescue Service 35 years ago.

Since being diagnosed with dementia, the 83-year-old’s short term memory has deteriorated but his time at KFRS remains at the forefront of his mind and is often the topic of conversations, according to one of Doug’s two sons, Paul.

Paul said: “He struggles with his short term memory, which really does frustrate him, but when he talks about his time with the fire service and Strood in particular, he just lights up. He loves telling us the stories and reminiscing.”

On arriving at the station today, Doug headed straight for his former office. He brought a photo of him sitting at his desk when he was station commander, which featured a calendar clock that still remains in the office. He was also able to take a seat in one of the fire engines and get back into the role of a firefighter when he tried on one of the jackets.

Speaking about his visit, Doug said: “It’s been fantastic. So much has changed but it’s been wonderful to come back.”

Doug joined KFRS after serving in the National Service, and was based at Folkestone, Bromley and Maidstone, where he was a driving instructor, before joining Strood station in 1971. The grandfather-of-four, who also has two great-grandchildren, still lives in Medway with his wife of 63 years, Shelia.

During his time at KFRS, which saw him awarded with a medal in recognition of his long service, Doug was deployed to a number of incidents, including the Crypt restaurant fire in Dover, in 1977.

He was able to share his experiences while meeting current crew members at his former base in Gravesend Road, as well as Sean Bone-Knell, Director Operations at KFRS, who is also the lead officer for dementia with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

Sean said: “We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Doug back to Strood station and not only help him to relive his time with the service, but his family as well. It was so pleasing to see Doug’s memories of working for KFRS are still there and to see his happiness when reliving his time helping the people of Kent and Medway.

“KFRS is very proud to be a Dementia Friendly organisation and we continue to champion other organisations to make this commitment, and to help those living with this terrible disease of the brain to go about their daily lives and feel included in their community.”

Kent residents living with dementia are eligible to have a free Safe and Well home visit, in which a home safety officer from KFRS visits them to offer advice and help them live safely and independently in their own home for longer. For more information or to book, visit hwww.kent.fire-uk.org/your-safety/home-safety/safe-and-well-visits/ or call 0800 923 7000 between 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

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