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January 13, 2010

How Fiona Phillips made me think again about the nastiness of dementia and the awful plight of all the people who care

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 5:39 pm

Early morning telly is soo bad.

I really mean it.

BBC and GMTV.

From the saccharine niceness of the presenters to the largely fatuous content involving recent polls by YouGov, the bland mediocrity of the editorial mission simply encourages you to think gratefully about your working day and the delicious commute ahead.

So when I tuned in to Dispatches on Channel 4 to watch the former doyen of GMTVness Fiona Phillips talk about dementia, I wasn’t expecting much. I knew she’d been a cut above the early morning crew with some testy chats with the likes of Brown, Cameron and Blair (I omit honorifics and first names deliberately). But she was, after all, a GMTV PRESENTER!! Guilty till proven innocent.

So what I witnessed next was nothing short of an epiphany on the scale of nasty Saul’s hasty transformation to nice Paul en route to Damascus. No exaggeration.

In Dispatches: My Family and Alzheimer’s, Fiona (for that is what I’ll call her from now on), spoke openly about the tragedy of dementia that has afflicted her parents. Her honesty in presenting her own pain as a long-distance carer (Fiona had to travel to Wales to be with her mum during her final years) and her graphic account of her father’s deterioration was at times eye watering.

Furthermore, she interviewed and filmed several other couples – one not so elderly – highlighting the ordeal of the sufferers, the plight of the carers and the insane bureaucracy involving health and social services, which often denied these people essential help. It also, again, highlighted the unfairness of the postcode lottery system for social care.

Dispatches commissioned YouGov (yes, them again) to do a survey of 767 people who care for dementia sufferers and the findings revealed:

almost half of those who care for Alzheimer’s sufferers receive no help from social services whatsoever
half of carers have little or no respite care
over half frequently feel threatened by the sufferers they look after
27% of sufferers waited three years or longer for an official diagnosis
17% never received one.
Some 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia.

Recently I started work with the dementia unit at Stockport NHS. They are eager to get involved in Stockport council’s video blogosphere to highlight all the issues above. I hope to meet with them next week and will post a follow up video blog then. I sincerely believe this network will start a process of real engagement that will help everyone involved make their lives somehow more bearable.

Meanwhile, if you have time and you have the patience to get past the infuriating ads on Channel 4s iplayer, click on the URL below and have a look at Fiona’s film. It’s not easy viewing, but then if you want that you can always tune into GMTV.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches

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