“There have been documentaries I’ve made that trended better than this one,” tweeted Ross Kemp after making the programme about dementia that aired on ITV last evening, “maybe because [in the others] I have put myself in jeopardy, but this documentary is, in a way, more important as we are all in jeopardy where dementia is concerned.”
It was hard to say whose story was the most heartbreaking. I wept for the older brother of the 5-year old Penny, born with a rare form of dementia. He was having counselling because, basically, he couldn’t make it right for her and was blaming himself. His counsellor likened his progress to climbing a mountain; sometimes he made progress and sometimes grief and ‘what if?’ pulled him all the way down again.
We saw a daughter packing away her mother’s home which had to be sold to pay for her care. She was having to move from one care home to another because she was “difficult to manage” and needed more specialist care. It reminded me of the pastor’s wife whose husband moved her from a local home to ours in Evington, Leicester, because the local home couldn’t cope with her walking and sedated her. Our Evington home didn’t do that. Her husband made a round trip of 50 miles to be with her, and while he was there helped other residents and relatives, too.
We saw Barbara Windsor’s husband, Scott Mitchell, agonising over the specialist’s advice that she will need to go into a care home at some point. “I can’t imagine leaving that lady and her thinking, ‘why has he done this to me?’ He warned. He had tried to do everything by himself at first, when he started having the carers he realised the load that had been taken off him, the emotional stress, the tiredness.
His first thought was, “okay, we’re fortunate, what about people who don’t have that?”
Ross and Barbara have been friends for over 20 years, and she played his on-screen mum in East Enders. Now she doesn’t recognise him.
Scott said, “we talk about social care problem in this country. Dementia is the basis of a social care problem.”
There are currently nearly 600,000 people diagnosed with dementia in the UK, with around 200,000 more estimated to have it, but not yet diagnosed.
The typical cost of an individual’s dementia care is £100,000. Families look after their own as long as they can, but like Scott Mitchell, find that specialist care is necessary at some point.
As Ross Kemp tweeted, we are all in danger as far as dementia is concerned. A survey by national newspapers have shown that people are prepared to pay extra income tax to fund good dementia care. Surely it’s time politics were put to one side and all parties agreed a social care plan with adequate funding?