May

9

Review of ITV Tonight: Living with Dementia


Last night, ITV Tonight broadcast a report into the lives of people living with dementia. There are now about 800,000 people in the UK with the condition, and presenter Fiona Foster met experts and carers who help those with the illness cope.

It’s now estimated that one in three people will develop dementia in the future, with all families affected. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the condition as a “national crisis” and pledged to double the budget for research into dementia and, last year, nations at the G8 dementia summit committed to developing a cure or treatment for dementia by 2025.

The ITV Tonight programme focused on the care and treatments currently available to those with dementia, from specially trained Admiral Nurses to studies into the benefits of vitamin B. However, for me, the most touching part of the programme focused on Playlist for Life, which has been designed to help people reconnect with their loved ones by creating a personally meaningful playlist of music. Taking part in Playlist for Life for ITV Tonight were Heather James, whose mum Betty has had dementia for 12 years, and Kate Burston, whose husband Ted has been living with vascular dementia for 11 years. It was clear that both Heather and Kate were deeply devoted to their loved ones but were finding it very difficult to rediscover the emotional bond they once had.

Heather and Kate both created personal playlists, with Heather downloading a song that her mother used to sing to her when she was a baby and Kate choosing songs to remind Ted of his youth. Unfortunately, Ted was reluctant to listen to the playlist on Kate’s first attempt – but Heather saw an immediate response from mum Betty. A small smile of recognition at the opening bars of the song led to feet tapping, swaying and a smile of pure joy from Betty – and as she hugged Heather, it was clear that this was the moment her daughter had been waiting for.

Encouraged by Heather’s success, Kate decided to try again with Ted, which led to arguably the most emotional scene of the programme. As Ted recognised the song that had been playing when he met Kate years ago, he leant in to his wife and gently held her hand. Presenter Fiona wiped away a tear as she witnessed the tender moment – as did I.

ITV Tonight showed the heart-breaking reality of people affected by dementia, but it also highlighted the great work that is being done to improve the lives of those living with the illness. I would echo Dr Peter Carter’s plea in the programme for the government to match their intentions with resources and help to fulfil the G8’s goal to find a treatment or cure for dementia by 2025. People such as Ted and Betty, and their loved ones, deserve nothing less.

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