Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Actor James Nesbitt's anguish at the turmoil of dementia

Actor James Nesbitt has told of the relief he felt after his mother lost her lengthy battle against Alzheimer's disease.

The Northern Ireland-born star was filming The Hobbit in New Zealand when his mother May died in June last year – almost 10 years after she developed the debilitating condition. Nesbitt, who is chancellor of the University of Ulster, gave an emotive description of the impact of dementia on his mother as he spoke at a major conference in Belfast on Monday where hundreds of the world's leading dementia doctors and scientists had gathered to discuss the latest research. Calling for greater funding for research, the actor revealed personal details of how the disease had gripped his mother and forced his family to have to make difficult decisions regarding her care.

Currently 820,000 people are affected by Alzheimer's in the UK.

But, with an ageing population, that figure is expected to increase significantly over the next decade.

Nesbitt said the Government must make Alzheimer's research a priority.

"We are lagging behind in funding and so we really need to change our commitment and our focus to a disease that is now affecting so many people here."

Alzheimer's Research UK is supporting research projects worth £20m-plus at universities, including the University of Ulster.

Factfile

Dementia describes a group of progressive symptoms including memory loss and confusion. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and Alzheimer's Research UK says the condition affects 820,000 people in the UK.

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