The comedian and TV star admits one flippant comment about his father’s dementia and fears about his own memory led to an explosion of media coverage which failed to cover the complex nature of the condition and his own feelings.
If a loved one in your family has dementia one of your biggest fears is likely to be; ‘what if I get it too?’
Many carers and relatives admit to worrying about this so-called “dementia dread”, and comedian and novelist David Baddiel, 51, is no exception.
Baddiel’s father Colin, a former research scientist, has lived with frontotemporal dementia for several years and Baddiel admits he sometimes worries he’s beginning to display symptoms himself.
However, following on from a host of media outlets declaring that David definitely has the condition after he made a brief remark about his own memory fears during an interview, he was quick to respond with an article in the Guardian newspaper saying this was not the case.
He explained that what was essentially a ‘mildly neurotic observation that I have heard at some point from almost all my friends who have parents suffering from dementia’ was taken out of context.
Baddiel had been chatting about how in his latest standup show, he includes anecdotes about his father and his dementia symptoms, but sometimes struggles to tread a fine line between pathos, truth and comedy. After remarking that even he was a little worried every time he forgot something now in case it was the first signs of early onset dementia, the Daily Mirror ran with a story on him having the condition himself.
‘What I was trying to do was give a small sense of my various reactions to my father’s illness, one of which is a new hyper-vigilance towards my own memory’s potential failings – and that hardly complex thought was immediately boiled down, essentially, to: Public Person Has Dementia (Probably),’ says David.
He admits there is some ‘social usefulness’ to the original articles, as it got people talking about dementia, and in particular Pick’s disease, which is the type that his father has.
‘It means that crippling diseases such as dementia at least get discussed,’ says David. ‘But dementia is a complex thing to talk about, and involves complex feelings.’