Two very different TV shows tackled the subject of dementia last week – both were compelling complex and ultimately inspiring, says Kate Corr
If you or a loved one are living with dementia then TV programmes about it may be the last thing you want to watch when you sit down to relax in the evening. But experience has taught me that people with personal experience of dementia (including myself) tend to fall into two distinct camps; those who purposely avoid any mention of the word on TV (for perfectly valid reasons) and those who actively seek it out. I have to admit to being in the latter camp – and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find the subject covered in both documentary and drama form last week on the BBC.
The first, a unique episode of Panorama called Living With Dementia gave a balanced and compelling account of how dementia impacts on family life. Chris Roberts, his wife Jayne and daughter Kate, 16, allowed cameras into their home to capture the day to day reality of the condition. Despite a few heartbreaking scenes, it was also extraordinarily inspiring to watch.
The second however caught me by surprise. It happened on Sunday night at 9pm when my favourite Swedish cop, Wallander (played by Sir Kenneth Branagh), was given the news by his doctor that he, like his father before him, had an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s. The brooding, troubled detective handled the news with the same complex array of emotions as anyone else in this, the last episode of the final Wallander series. As one of Britain’s most respected actors – best known for playing Hamlet or Othello – Branagh rose to the occasion and gave a breathtaking, believable performance. The final scene was poignant, deeply moving and overall rather beautiful to watch.
‘For Wallander to recognize the warning signs of Alzheimer’s that his father lived with is a situation that many people with dementia can relate to,’ said a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Society. ‘Even as little as five years ago, I don’t think we would have seen this on our screens.’
Let’s hope we see more of this changing attitude and growing awareness of dementia on TV.
Both shows are available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.