‘Bird centre has given me my mum back’

Sharon  and Jenny Lashley at Washington Wetlands Centre.
Sharon and Jenny Lashley at Washington Wetlands Centre.
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A Sunderland businesswoman says birds and wildlife are helping her get her dementia-sufferer mother back.

Sharon Lashley had watched her mother Jenny’s condition deteriorated after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago – until they started visiting Washington Wetlands Centre together.

Sharon  and Jenny Lashley at Washington Wetlands Centre.

Sharon and Jenny Lashley at Washington Wetlands Centre.

Sharon says her 80-year-old mother, who lives in Silksworth, becomes ‘bright and alert’ during visits to the wildlife sanctuary.

The director of Washington-based Enviro UK Consultants, said: “I notice a big difference in my mam’s behaviour every time I come here.

“She lights up when she is outdoors and surrounded by birds and animals – it’s like she becomes the mam I always knew again.”

Sharon, 51, who lives in Easington, is the North East Rregional chairman of NAWIC – the National Association of Women in Construction.

She lights up when she is outdoors and surrounded by birds and animals – it’s like she becomes the mam I always knew again

Sharon Lashley

The organisation will host a charity ball at Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham, on Friday, October 14, with proceeds from a raffle going to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Sharon added: “I’m delighted our ball has chosen to support the Alzheimer’s Society as it’s clearly a cause that’s close to my heart.

“The charity does some excellent work in providing services for people living with dementia – mam and I have been to one of the dementia cafes it runs and our Dementia Nurse Karen has helped us enormously over the years.”

After noticing the profound effect wildlife at the centre was having on Jenny, the pair became regular visitors.

Sharon  and Jenny Lashley at Washington Wetlands Centre.

Sharon and Jenny Lashley at Washington Wetlands Centre.

Sharon added: “We’re both members here now and come for lunch most Tuesdays and Thursdays and sometimes visit on a Sunday too.

“We feed the ducks, geese and pheasants then we usually go to see the otters.

“It’s a lovely, relaxed environment and mam always leaves with a smile on her face.”

Centre manager Gill Pipes said: “The impact on people’s wellbeing of spending time with wildlife in natural surroundings can’t be underestimated.

An otter at Washington Wetlands Centre.

An otter at Washington Wetlands Centre.

“We live in a fast-paced world with lots of demands and distractions.

“Being around nature allows us to slow down that pace and just ‘be’.

“It’s hugely important to the team here that we provide a haven for people just as much as for wildlife.

“We’re honoured that Sharon and Jenny decide to spend so much time here.”

Tickets for a table of 10 at the ball cost £500, but individual tickets priced £50 each are also available.

Email leanne@cene.org.uk for more information, or visit nawic.co.uk/index.php/events/forthcoming-events