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BBC follows families with dementia

chris and Allan Gilliver
chris and Allan Gilliver Image credit: thetelegraphandargus.co.uk

Allan Gilliver was active husband living a happy life with his wife Chris, but in 2013 their lives changed after he was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

The 77-year-old features in BBC’s new two-part documentary, Dementia & Us, starting tonight Tuesday October 5 which follows four families affected by the illness.

Alex can no longer dress or wash himself which puts added pressure on his wife who has now become a full-time carer.

Chris (pictured above with Allan) told The Telegraph and Argus: "But he's still there.

"He's very non-communicative but every now and then he'll pick up a word and start singing. He still has his charisma, but he doesn't recognise people anymore. When he meets anyone he'll say 'Hiya lad', it's his way of coping. People think he's doing okay, but he isn't."

Explaining how they were asked to feature in the programme Chris said:  "They approached us through Pathways (a Bradford group supporting people with dementia and their families) and we talked about it with the family and decided we'd do it because people just don't know enough about dementia.

"It's not just about losing your keys or forgetting where you put your phone. It affects the whole body and personality. Gilly has been aggressive and I've had bruises.

"Dementia is a complex condition and you don't get a pack to deal with it. Nobody tells you how lonely it can be, or what it entails, or that you feel like a failure. We've learned things as we've gone along but it's been a struggle. It wasn't until last year, when I reached the end of my tether, that I discovered Admiral Nurses, who specialise in dementia care. People who are caring for loved ones with dementia often just struggle through.

"This programme is going to be used as a teaching tool, to help other carers. People need more support."

The couple, known as Gilly, were lent a camera by the BBC so they could document their lives through lockdown.

"The family came round in all weathers to stand in the garden, our grandson blew us a kiss, but the isolation was tough. I ended up having a breakdown," Chris said. "We had a family conference, and decided to get some occasional respite care for Gilly. I want to keep him at home as long as I can, but the respite gives me some much-needed time for myself."

The series also follows Marion who has a cunning method avoiding bumping into doors by painting them in bright colours and Chris, an army veteran who was diagnosed with a rare hereditary form of dementia in his thirties.

Dementia & Us is on BBC Two tonight, October 5 and next Tuesday, October 12 at 9pm and available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.