The first UK’s global Dementia Friends Ambassador admits seeing her decline ‘felt like she was being taken from us’.
Carey Mulligan, the Oscar-nominated actress and global Dementia Friends champion has written an article for The Telegraph in which she describes her experiences of caring for her grandmother, ‘Nans’, and how she’d like to see the UK become a truly dementia-friendly society.
Writing especially for World Alzheimer’s Day on 21 September, Mulligan talked about an experience she had at a tube station recently, in which an elderly woman became confused while trying to put herpaper ticket through the Oyster “touch” barriers. With people huffing, puffing and tutting behind her, it was clear the lady was confused and could very well have had dementia.
‘In that moment, I was more conscious than ever that we’re living in a society that still isn’t fully aware what that means,’ writes Mulligan.
She goes on to share anecdotes of growing up with her grandmother – Nans – who has had dementia for the last 15 years.
‘My earliest memories of Nans showing symptoms of dementia are my brother and I writing lists when I was 16 years old. When she came to visit, we would write her lists to remind her she wasn’t at home in her house in Wales and that she was staying at her daughter’s home with her son-in-law and grandchildren. “Nans is in Buckinghamshire”, “Nans arrived on Saturday and is leaving on Thursday” and so on.
‘After years of great interest in our schoolwork, she struggled to remember the subjects I was studying at school for my leaving exams, so I wrote her a list for that, too: “Carey is studying English, Theatre Studies, History and German”.
‘I remember her losing her way home on a short walk to the village, a walk she had taken hundreds of times before. I remember her sitting down to a meal with her and watching her stare at her knife and fork, having completely forgotten how to use them.’
These are undoubtedly experiences that many people with a family member or friend with dementia will recognise.
She goes on to say:
‘Piece by piece it felt like Nans was being taken from us. As I reached my early twenties, dementia was shutting down parts of her that made us feel like we were completely losing the grandmother that we loved so dearly. Some days she wouldn’t remember my name, others she would order us out of the room in anger, others she wouldn’t know me at all.’
It’s why Mulligan is so passionate in her role as the UK’s first ever Global Dementia Friends Ambassador, to raise awareness of dementia and the need to ‘see the world through the eyes of someone who is living with dementia.’
She says that being a Dementia Friend is about living in a society where we are dementia aware – ‘whether that’s of the best way to support a loved one displaying symptoms or an old lady showing signs of confusion at an Oyster barrier. It means everyone with dementia being treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, and not feeling ashamed or afraid.’
Carey – we couldn’t agree with you more! If you’re interested in signing up to become a Dementia Friend, click here.