Actress seizes chance to turn spotlight on dementia

One of Britain’s most in-demand actresses set out to raise awareness of dementia after being invited to guest edit Radio 4’s Today programme last week.

Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan, whose grandmother has been living with the condition for around 15 years, was already an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society when she was offered the slot on the flagship current affairs programme.

She asked the Today team to include a number of items on the illness and was interviewed about her own experiences during the course of the show.

Ms Mulligan, aged 31, said that her family had gone through “awful, terrible” times after her grandmother, known affectionately as “Nans”, was diagnosed.

Although the pensioner’s condition has deteriorated to the extent that she no longer recognises Carey or other loved ones, the actress believes that it is still possible to make an emotional connection with sufferers.

“I’ve certainly had it in my experience, that people with my grandmother have gone ‘well she doesn’t know me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t visit because she doesn’t know me’,” she said.

“But when we have a good visit – and they’re not always good – when we leave, she won’t remember that we’ve been there but the sensation of being in company of someone who loves you is something we can’t deny.

“There’s a calmness, there’s a companionship: these really fundamental feelings of being loved, being taken care of by people and family who really love you, I think that’s something that regardless of how progressed your dementia is stays with you.”

In another item, Ms Mulligan spoke to Michael Parkinson and Michael Palin, another couple of public figures who have first-hand experience of the illness.

The former talk show host related his mother’s battle with dementia, while Mr Palin talked about his friendship with fellow Monty Python star Terry Jones, whose diagnosis was recently made public.

“The important thing is not to treat them as something other than they were. Not to stigmatise and say ‘oh you’re lost now’,” said Mr Palin.

“I do think it’s terribly important to continue to relate to that person, to make sure they’re not considered to be in a different group from the rest of humanity.”

Ms Mulligan, who has appeared in films such as Pride and Prejudice, An Education and Suffragette, was among a number of personalities invited to guest edit Today in the period between Christmas and New Year. Others to take part included Olympic boxer Nicola Adams and Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies.

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