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Miriam Margolyes recalls ‘utterly devastating’ effects of her father’s dementia

Miriam Margolyes has said she found it “utterly devastating” when her father became a man she no longer knew due to his dementia.

The 82-year-old actress, who has starred in Blackadder and the Harry Potter films, opened up about her father Joseph’s battle with the condition as part of an awareness campaign by Alzheimer’s Society.

Reflecting on when he began showing signs, she said: “When my father developed his symptoms in his early 90s, I had a feeling that something was wrong, but I tried to push it away.

“It was only when neighbours phoned me and said daddy was on their doorstep saying that they were in his house, that I realised he couldn’t be left on his own anymore.

“And that Alzheimer’s, I didn’t know what it was then, but the illness that had taken hold of him had a vice like grip, and my father was no longer the man I knew.

“It was utterly devastating. Every now and again I had glimpses of the daddy who had looked after me and had been my support and my rock.

“But very little; he became more and more of a shell and a husk.”

The actress revealed she felt the situation was unfair as he had been a “good, kind, loving man” who “seemed to disappear” in front of her eyes.

“I couldn’t deal with it – I didn’t know what to do or who to ask”, she added.

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning, according to the NHS website.

It says Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia and along with vascular dementia, they make up the majority of cases..

One of Alzheimer’s Society recent campaign videos, titled The Ultimate Vow, highlights the harsh realities of living with dementia as it shows a wife caring for her husband as his symptoms of the condition steadily develop.

Discussing the effects of dementia on a relationship, Margolyes said: “Unfortunately as you get older and when illness strikes, the whole basis of your relationship changes.

“Dependency changes, expectation changes, capacity changes.

“The person that you fell in love with and longed to be with when you began your love affair, then at the end of your lives, there is a stark realisation that things have changed utterly and forever.

“I have been with my partner for 54 years and I hope we will be until we are both corpses.

“I think it is just joyous to know someone that well, to trust someone that much and to know that you are loved. Life is sweeter shared.!

Chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society Kate Lee added: “We’re so grateful to supporters like Miriam for sharing their personal stories about dementia to raise awareness of this devastating condition.

“One in three people born in the UK today will develop dementia and it’s the UK’s biggest killer.

“Through our Ultimate Vow campaign, we want everyone to know that Alzheimer’s Society is here to provide help and hope.”