British actress Carey Mulligan opens up on the heartache of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease.
Great Gatsby star Carey Mulligan has spoken candidly about her grandmother’s dementia and the need for a greater public understanding of the condition.
The Hollywood actress, whose mother Nano is from Llandeilo, yesterday described how her 87-year-old grandmother “Nans” had started becoming increasingly forgetful more than a decade ago – and praised the care she was now receiving at a home in Pontardawe, near Swansea.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Mulligan, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, urged members of public to help with the fight against the condition and increase awareness by signing up to one of the charity’s Memory Walk events.
I started to realise she was forgetful about things that I knew she would be passionate about and remember.
The 28-year-old said: “My grandma has dementia and is in a brilliant home in Wales, Pontardawe. I think we started noticing signs of dementia about 12 years ago when I was about 15, 16.
“I started to realise she was forgetful about things that I knew she would be passionate about and remember. She was a geography teacher and so she was always really interested in my education and what I was studying.
“I remember picking my A-levels and I told her what I was doing and she started not remembering what [the subjects] were and I thought, you love education and you are really excited about what I’m going to do, and she couldn’t remember them.”
Talking about visiting her grandmother in the care home, she said: “The first time I went into the home and I sat talking to Nans, she had trouble communicating.
“I could talk to her, but often, other people in the home would try and talk to me or try to start a conversation and I would feel immediately nervous and think am I going to mess up this conversation because it’s slightly difficult sometimes.
“It can be a little bit challenging talking to somebody with dementia if you’re nervous – you don’t want to be patronising and I think a lot of people feel that.
“I think what’s so great about the Alzheimer’s Society and what we want to do in September, which is these Memory Walks. The more people are talking about it and raising awareness, [the] more people just feel more comfortable – it’s less of a scary subject.”
It is saddening that dementia is still a condition that many of us would prefer to keep quiet about.
It is estimated that around 44,000 people in Wales are currently living with dementia, but the Alzheimer’s Society believes that this figure could be much higher as people often too worried to get a formal diagnosis.
The charity has said that the number of people with the condition is predicted to rise by 34% by 2020.
Sue Phelps, director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales, said: “More than 44,000 people in Wales are currently living with dementia, and thousands more are affected by the condition in some way, whether it is a family member or a friend.
“It is saddening that dementia is still a condition that many of us would prefer to keep quiet about. Talking and raising people’s awareness of dementia can be an important step in changing things for the better. Memory Walk is a fantastic event that does just that.
“We see whole families coming together to fight dementia. The more we know about the condition, the more prepared we’ll be to face it together. I’d urge anyone with concerns about their memory to visit their GP.”
Ms Mulligan becomes the latest high profile figure to raise awareness of the issue.
Former breakfast TV presenter Fiona Phillips has previously campaigned prominently on the disease after both her parents, from West Wales, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive Jeremy Hughes added: “Most people know someone in their family who has dementia or might have dementia and one of the things we’re keen to do through the activities of the Alzheimer’s Society, our Memory Walks and everything else, is just make people more aware of some of the signs and symptoms of dementia.”