As he stood at his mother’s graveside last Sunday, a huge weight pressed down on the shoulders of Six O’Clock Show presenter Martin King.
other’s Day without his beloved mam Christina will never be the same, but this year has special significance as a project he proposed to Virgin Media chiefs some time ago has become a reality.
Martin’s documentary entitled We Need To Talk About Dementia – which airs this week – will shed a light on an illness that has a life-changing impact on those suffering and the family members thrust into the role of caring for their loved ones.
Martin lost his mam, Christina, to dementia in 2019. His dad, Martin Senior, who was in the same nursing home and room as his mother, died just four weeks before her.
In his documentary, Martin talks to members of his own family and other people in the community about lifting the stigma associated with dementia and he hopes his parents would appreciate the film he has helped to produce.
“Mother’s Day was last Sunday and we went to my Mam and Dad’s grave,” he said. “I said to my wife Jenny, ‘I just hope I don’t let her down with this documentary’.
“She just assured me that she would be proud of what I’m doing and I hope that’s the case. My big fear is that I won’t do it justice as it’s an illness so close to my heart, so hopefully we are hitting all the right notes.
“If this show raises some awareness of dementia and gets people talking about it, we may be able to help those affected and give them the support they need.
“From my experience, this disease is very much a case of losing your parents twice. Once, when they start to be affected by the illness, and again when they pass away.
“The process can take many years and takes so many people involved in the story to breaking point.
“So it’s important that we lift the stigma around dementia and get people talking about it as so many people in Ireland are living through this every day of their lives.”
Martin admits he has fears dementia will affect him in the latter years of his life, with the experience he lived through watching his parents fade away exasperating his personal concern.
The long and agonising journey that starts with minor memory lapses and ends with dementia sufferers being unable to identify their own family members has many painful chapters.
“I remember the day my Mam went into the residential home and I was in floods of tears,” he reflected.
“There is a huge sense of guilt when you make the decision to send a parent into care, but it was the right thing to do.
“In the weeks that followed, I saw the benefit of the decision. My Dad was in the same care home and to be living with him again was comforting to her when she had some moments of clarity.
“There were more times when she had no idea who he was or where she was, but for those moments she was in a better place, it was the right place for her to be.
“Up to the point when the person goes into care, a family member often becomes the caregiver when this happens and the toll it takes on them to see their loved one slip slowly away sighs very heavily.
“Those giving care to dementia sufferers are often forgotten in this story and they can be pushed to breaking point. It wears you down, the long road is so draining, and they often need counselling when the person moves into care.
“When I see what my sister Clare went through, she was right in the frontline looking after my parents.
“I have such admiration for the way they tended to my Mam’s needs, and she was the one who was affected the most because of what she had to do.
“I’m hoping we will raise some awareness of the issues around dementia and help to try and banish the idea that we need to stay quiet about it and banish those suffering.
“We need to try and keep people suffering from dementia as active and involved in our collective lives for as long as possible as that’s what is best for them.”
- Donate for Dementia runs from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 March and will include special programming across Virgin Media TV shows to help raise awareness and funds to support people with all forms of dementia, which affects half a million Irish families.
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