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Loving wife discovers ‘lifeline’ hobby with Spalding Model Railway Club to ease ‘nightmare’ of caring for husband with dementia





A loving wife who became her husband's carer after he was diagnosed with dementia, says her new hobby became her lifeline.

Marti Martin, 75, cared for husband Andy, 72, after he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease 13 years ago. The couple were married for 46 years before Andy died peacefully in her arms on Friday (May 17).

The pair waited more than a year for a diagnosis after Andy began to show signs of the illness but later found joint enjoyment at Spalding Model Railway Group.

Marti Martin with husband Andy Martin, finger painting at Memory Arts for Dementia Sufferers and their Carers
Marti Martin with husband Andy Martin, finger painting at Memory Arts for Dementia Sufferers and their Carers

Marti said: “I was trying to find things that might keep him interested and to keep his brain going. I found some old bits of model railway parts in the loft, which were so battered they couldn’t run, but I thought it might be a starting point.

“I Googled our closest club and from that we both joined the Spalding Model Railway group and got lots of help and enthusiasm from the other people there.

“I got completely hooked because I love gardening and landscaping but this was something I could do inside when my back hurt. It’s very creative and just fabulous – I love it.”

Marti Martin
Marti Martin

After spending time at the club together, Marti explained how much the hobby helped Andy.

She said: “He was in the Merchant Navy and he was all things mechanical. I could tell that he really enjoyed the model engine part and anything you can do to stimulate their minds helps. I had never done model railway before but Andy used to do it with his brothers.

Marti with some other members of the Spalding Model Railway Club
Marti with some other members of the Spalding Model Railway Club

“Dementia is a devastating disease because the love of my life was not my husband anymore – he wasn’t the person I married at all.”

Before Andy was transferred to a care home, the couple would often stay at home most days after it became too dangerous to leave Andy alone.

Andy Martin busy constructing with Meccano
Andy Martin busy constructing with Meccano

Marti explained how it affected them both. She said: “Towards the end it was very difficult to take him out as he would often fall. It got to the stage where I couldn’t leave him alone for more than ten minutes as he would try to make coffee with mustard powder and put dish cloths in the toaster, which would then start a fire.

“It was a nightmare really and I couldn’t go out anywhere. We had to get the shopping delivered to our house and there was no freedom – it was horrible.

Throughout Andy’s illness I became quite lonely and the club has been a lifeline for me. The lads who are at the club are like brothers – they look after me and are so accommodating.”

The Focus Dementia group is held at the Tonic 44 hub in Surfleet
The Focus Dementia group is held at the Tonic 44 hub in Surfleet

The hobby includes building new layouts and tracks, whilst gaining new skills. Members at the Spalding Model Railway Club can get involved in projects, attend meetings, participate in exhibitions and enjoy all of the social benefits which come along with it.

Marti, from Boston, said: “When you get absorbed in it, you think about it all the time. I am quite an anxious person and this replaces my anxiety with something to look forward too.

“I was welcomed with open arms into the club and it has helped replace my worries. The social side of it is brilliant and people are so creative – you’re only limited to your imagination.”

The Focus Dementia Social group often go for walks around Surfleet park
The Focus Dementia Social group often go for walks around Surfleet park

Zoe Turner, who is the Dementia Coordinator at Tonic Health, explained that activities and hobbies such as model railway can help boost individuals hand eye coordination and brain stimulation.

She said: “You’ll find that different things can help different individuals, especially if they have different types of dementia.

“Often the activities which they have enjoyed in the past can help with anxiety and depression after being diagnosed in the early stages.

The Dementia cafe in Spalding offers different activities each week for carers and the cared for
The Dementia cafe in Spalding offers different activities each week for carers and the cared for

“Anything that has been important to them can definitely help and within our dementia groups, we find that music can help a lot of people, as well as arts and crafts.

“They enjoy it because it is comforting and familiar for them and people from mechanical and solitary backgrounds enjoy Meccano because they are using their hand eye coordination and building things.”

Tonic Health has a Movement for Memory group and Dementia Cafe at the hub in Spalding, every Wednesday between 1.30pm and 3.30pm.

The Dementia cafe is open every Wednesday at Tonic Health in Spalding between 1.30pm and 3.30pm
The Dementia cafe is open every Wednesday at Tonic Health in Spalding between 1.30pm and 3.30pm

Participants can take part in different activities each week including pottery, flower arranging, music and different exercises. Sessions cost £5.

The Focus Dementia Social Group runs at the Tonic 44 site in Surfleet every Tuesday between 10am and 4pm and every Thursday and the Holbeach hub from 10am to 4pm.

It is aimed for carers and the cared for and includes a social day out for the person with early stages of dementia and gives the carer an opportunity to have a break.

For more information contact Zoe on 07471 513369 or email dementiasupport@tonic-health.co.uk.



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