Richard Madeley has spoken about the impact his mother’s dementia diagnosis had on him as he backed an emergency appeal by the Alzheimer’s Society to raise funds to increase telephone support to those in need during the coronavirus crisis.
The TV star, who is patron of the charity, also urged people to visit their neighbours who may be suffering from dementia, to offer help and company.
He told the PA news agency: “People with dementia at the moment have got two issues, really just the practical business of going out and getting food, it’s difficult for them, and secondly, being isolated.
“You really don’t want to be isolated and cut off from the rest of the world if you are developing dementia, it’s the last thing you need to happen and that is of course exactly what has happened, because of lockdown.
“We want to try and make people a little bit more aware. There may be someone living near them that they know and they know has dementia or Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia and it would be really nice to knock on their door and say ‘Are you OK for food? Can I pop out and get you something?’.
“It sounds like lockdown might be easing in a few days’ time but we are not there yet and we don’t know what the measures are going to be and it will be just such a compliment for people who are living at home coping with dementia, if they had a knock on the door and a friendly face saying ‘Hi, I just thought I would check you are OK, can I get you anything?’.
“Also have a conversation with them, at the moment I’ve been doing some shopping for a lady of 80 living near me in Hampstead, she’s a retired writer, and she doesn’t have dementia but she is very isolated.
“Being 80 she is very frightened of going out and it’s not so much doing her shopping, which I don’t do that much of, maybe once or twice a week, it’s just having a conversation with her at the front gate and it would be exactly the same if she had dementia, it would be a real point of contact and a morale boost.
“So it’s a double-pronged thing really, it’s making sure they have got enough to eat and doing some shopping for them, and having a nice chat with them, five or 10 minutes, keep social distancing, stay six feet away, and it would make a huge difference to them.”
The Society’s Dementia Connect support line has been flooded with calls from dementia patients as they cope with the suspension of all face-to-face services, social distancing measures and self-isolation.
Madeley said he was particularly affected when his mother was diagnosed with dementia, and said: “I’ve been a patron for quite a long time now, it must be about 10 years I think, and I really got involved after my mother died.
“She was diagnosed with lung cancer and dementia on the same day and at the time we thought that was two completely separate conditions but actually it later transpired that if you get lung cancer there is a risk of dementia, it comes with the disease really.
“To be honest we all felt, and my mother felt, that she would rather be taken away by the first diagnosis, by the lung cancer, than by the dementia and that is indeed what happened, but it did develop and she did become very forgetful, she could get quite confused.”
He added: “It really opened my eyes to what it’s like, living with a close relative who is slowly deteriorating.”
Donations to Alzheimer’s Society’s emergency appeal can be made online at alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus-appeal