Monday, 23 March 2009, 8:00PM on ITV1
For the past 20 years, Kevin Whately has played television detective Robbie Lewis, who was Inspector Morse’s right-hand man.
But in his latest on-screen appearance, the actor investigates a subject close to his heart – dementia.
Kevin’s mother Mary, now 83, was diagnosed with the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, eight years ago.
Sadly, Mary’s condition is so advanced that her family had to take the difficult decision to admit her to a nursing home.
Kevin says: “Three years ago Mum became really ill and after a stay in hospital, we had to move her to a nursing home because she was no longer able to cope with living on her own. Sadly her condition is now so advanced that she’s not able to take part in this programme. But I feel passionately that more needs to be done to raise awareness about dementia – and to get the right treatments and care for those with this disease, which is going to affect more and more of our aging population.”
Kevin and his brother Frank recall the sad deterioration of their mother’s memory and ability to take care of herself and their feelings of helplessness.
Frank remembers when he and his daughter Becky first noticed that Mary was losing her memory. He says: “We were first worried that there was something wrong and we took her to Ireland at Easter… Becky came into our room crying and she said, ‘There’s something wrong with Gran. There’s something wrong”. And I said, ‘No, no she’s just had a long day’. And we took her off to the pub and she was sitting there with a pint of Guinness inevitably… And she said: ‘Wow – this is good. Isn’t it splendid? But it’s a bit cold for Italy.’”
And the two brothers talk about their painful decision to admit her to a nursing home.
Kevin discusses his concerns about the vast difference in standards of care for patients with dementia in care homes in Britain.
The programme also looks at the need for better diagnosis for dementia, as currently doctors and nurses do not receive mandatory training in diagnosing and dealing with dementia. It is believed that only one third of people with dementia have been diagnosed. In a recent survey, 29 per cent of GPs said they have not had enough training in how to diagnose and manage dementia.
Kevin meets with John Suchet and the Admiral Nurse who has helped him deal with his wife’s dementia.
The programme also looks at whether people with Alzheimer’s should have access to a wider selection of drugs despite the financial implications and it reports on alternative therapies including Nintendo Wii therapy, Singing for the Brain and Reminiscence therapy.