By Sophie Norris
This is the heartwarming moment a grandad struggling with dementia lights up when he is given a newly hatched duckling to look after.
Jack Ward, 88, who was recently diagnosed with vascular dementia, helped to rear ‘duckie’ with his son who set up an incubator in his home last month.
World War Two veteran Jack had gone missing the day before for seven hours and his son, Nigel Ward, 65, claims it was ‘unbelievable’ to see his dad’s reaction to the duck.
Jack’s wife, Jean Ward, 86, has been in a nursing home for three months and he had complained to Nigel about feeling bored and lonely since quitting volunteering at a local farm due to his health.
As a result, Nigel decided to convert a cage with a lamp and hatch eight eggs for his dad to give him something to focus on since his diagnosis.
Nigel, from Wareham, Dorset said: “On Wednesday night, dad said to me he would have to have a word with God. I said ‘what for’ and he said ‘he can’t take me yet, who’s going to look after the ducklings’?
“We’ve had a full run of events recently. My mum has been in a nursing home for about three months now.
“She has been away full time for about six months in hospital and then two different nursing homes. There’s no chance of her coming back.
“My dad has always been very difficult but over the past year he’s changed completely. I go to see him most evenings and my younger brother [Neville Ward, 63] stays with him at night.
“We’ve both got an interest in horses and chickens and dad told me he felt bored and lonely. Up until six months ago he used to help at a farm voluntarily. The boredom is driving him mad.”
Jack has struggled since his wife moved out to live permanently in a nursing home and Nigel believes the ducks will help him have something to care for.
Just one day before the two surviving ducklings hatched, Jack had gone missing and was brought home by the police.
Nigel now hopes the ducklings will help keep his mind off his recent diagnosis and give him something to put his mind to.
Nigel said: “Last month I said to dad ‘how would you like to have a little incubator out here and I’ll get some duck eggs?’ His whole face lit up and he said ‘would you do that?’
“We set it all up and on Sunday he went missing for seven hours. He was found at 10 o’clock at night by the local police. This is the second time in six weeks that he’s gone missing.
“When he was brought back by the police, he thought he’d been arrested – he was pretty impressed by that. I had to explain that they were just bringing him back to safety.
“I went around on Tuesday and he’s lost his bus pass so he’s been upset about that, but really it’s a blessing. He’s been here, there and everywhere recently and gets confused.
“On Monday, I said to him that the ducklings should be hatching on that day. The humidity was wrong on the incubator and the ducks were struggling to hatch so I had to help them out.
“When I handed that duckling to him his reaction was amazing. He was actually crying when he first saw them.
“He wants to put them in his sink and let them have a swim so I’m going to do that with him.
“They’ve been really good. To be honest, I was really sad that the others didn’t survive but I guess two is enough to keep his mind off things.”
Dementia UK claim animals can provide ‘meaningful stimulation, companionship and comfort’.
Rachel Thompson, admiral nurse professional and practice development lead at Dementia UK said: “Whilst evidence is still growing about the use of pet therapy in dementia, some studies have shown that interaction with animals or pets, particularly when related to a person’s previous experience and memories, can provide meaningful stimulation, companionship, and comfort through physical contact.
“Families and those providing care should introduce familiar pets or animals carefully and observe the response.
“Our Admiral Nurses have supported some families and care settings in introducing pets, resulting in some positive benefits for those with dementia.”
FACT BOX – VASCULAR DEMENTIA (from www.dementiauk.org)
• Vascular dementia is a term for a group of conditions caused by problems with blood circulation to the brain.
• 17% of people diagnosed with dementia will have vascular dementia and it is the second most common form of dementia in over 65s.
• Vascular dementia is diagnosed in slightly more men than woman