Guardian Dementia

This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Dementia newsfeed.

Husband walks in on wife being allegedly sexually assaulted at Sydney aged care home

José says he hasn’t been able to sleep since alleged assault, which was described as ‘cuddling’ in incident report

A man who walked in on his 70-year-old wife with dementia being allegedly sexually assaulted by a fellow resident at her Sydney aged care home has blamed under-staffing for failing to properly monitor residents.

The 75-year-old man, José, said he has not been able to sleep properly since the alleged 20 March assault on his wife, Shannon, and that he wants answers about why his wife was able to wander off alone down a corridor and into the man’s room.

Related: Australian government meets just half of aged care vaccination target

Related: ‘Could it be scurvy?’ It’s a travesty so many Australian aged care patients are malnourished | Ranjana Srivastava

Related: Relying on casuals in aged care will weaken royal commission’s reforms, experts warn

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10 April 2021, 8:00 pm

Action launched to challenge trip ban for England care home residents

People in care homes are being treated as if they are ‘different species’, says John’s Campaign

People living in care homes are being treated by Public Health England as if they are “different species”, according to a campaigner whose organisation has launched a challenge to a ban on residents making trips.

The action is being taken by John’s Campaign, which says official guidance fails to accurately express the law and to advise care homes on their legal obligations to people aged 65 and over.

Related: England’s care home operators warn against compulsory Covid jabs

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2 April 2021, 9:02 am

Angela review – Mark Ravenhill's tale of dance and dementia

Available online
The playwright takes us inside the mind of his late mother in a poignant audio play that dramatises her shifting sense of self

Anyone who has observed dementia at close quarters is likely to recognise the unspoken pain contained in Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical audio drama about his late mother’s Alzheimer’s. But rather than showing us the effects of Angela’s dementia on himself and his father, Ted, the playwright gives primacy to her inner voice and confusions, building a rich subjectivity despite the accompanying sadness.

This play is the first in a series for Sound Stage, an audio-digital theatre platform created by the Royal Lyceum theatre and Pitlochry Festival theatre that aims to give its audience the online experience of going to the theatre (with an interval and after-show discussions). Understated and melancholic, it has none of the brazenness of Ravenhill’s past work.

Related: Inside review – trio of anxious lockdown studies

Angela is available online 26-28 March and 1-2 April.

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25 March 2021, 8:00 am

Pitchside saliva tests could be used to diagnose concussion

  • Researchers hail ‘gamechanger’ in head injury treatment
  • Study was partly funded by Rugby Football Union

A new technology that could pave the way for an objective test to diagnose concussion at pitchside has been hailed as a “gamechanger” by researchers. The test, performed on saliva samples, has the potential to be used in high-impact sports such as elite rugby and football where head injuries are common, and also at grassroots level and in other areas of life.

The research team, led by the University of Birmingham and part‑funded by the Rugby Football Union, has published the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The identification of the biomarkers in saliva creates the possibility of a non-invasive clinical test for concussion.

Related: Football ‘doesn’t want to think it can be a killer’, Dawn Astle tells MPs

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23 March 2021, 10:30 pm

Football 'doesn’t want to think it can be a killer', Dawn Astle tells MPs

  • Footballer’s daughter delivers excoriating testimony
  • Parliamentary committee told sport failed to protect players

Campaigners for action against neuro-degenerative disease in football have delivered excoriating testimony against the game’s authorities, with one telling a parliamentary committee: “Football doesn’t want to think it can be a killer, but I know it can because it’s on my dad’s death certificate.”

Dawn Astle, whose father, Jeff, died from dementia which coroners declared an “industrial disease” because of his years as a professional footballer, was one of several witnesses to appear at adigital, culture, media and sport select committee hearing into concussion in sport. She called current funding for research into the effects of heading the ball “a drop in the ocean” and demanded faster action in response to studies that already exist.

Related: Football grapples slowly with brain injury, 19 years on from Jeff Astle | Andy Bull

Related: Dan Scarbrough on rugby’s dementia crisis: ‘Somebody has to put their hand up and take responsibility’

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23 March 2021, 3:20 pm

Football grapples slowly with brain injury, 19 years on from Jeff Astle | Andy Bull

The inquiry into concussion feels woefully small and underresourced given what we now know about the dangers

On 11 November 2002, the South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh recorded a verdict of “death by industrial disease” in the case of the former England striker Jeff Astle who had died, aged 59, after years suffering with dementia. At that point there was already 30-odd years’ worth of anecdotal evidence that heading the ball caused brain trauma. The Astle verdict meant there was now an official recognition of a link. The Guardian called it a “landmark verdict”. An official at the Professional Footballers’ Association reassured the players, and public, that the PFA and the FA had “begun joint research” into how heading a football affects the brain.

“We cannot do anything about what has gone on in the past,” the spokesman said, “but maybe we can do something about the future.”

Related: Women and girls face double the risk of concussion in sport, British MPs are told

A lot changed in those last two decades, but the question of whether sport should have gone further, faster, remains

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11 March 2021, 8:00 am

Vicar of Dibley actor Trevor Peacock dies aged 89

Peacock, who played Jim Trott in the BBC sitcom, died of a ‘dementia-related illness’ said his family

Trevor Peacock, who played Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley, has died at the age of 89. Peacock who appeared in many British shows, from EastEnders to Jonathan Creek, had dementia.

A statement on behalf of his family said: “Trevor Peacock, actor, writer and song-writer, died aged 89 on the morning of 8 March from a dementia-related illness.”

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9 March 2021, 10:40 am

Florian Zeller on The Father: 'Anthony Hopkins took me in his arms. We knew the miracle had happened'

The French director and dramatist reveals how he pushed Hopkins into giving one of the most wrenching performances of his career in an unflinching dementia drama also starring Olivia Colman

When Florian Zeller set out to turn his harrowing hit play The Father into a film, he made a minor, talismanic tweak to the main character. André is an elderly man with dementia, who suspects his daughter of plotting to steal his flat. This meatiest of roles – which demands sudden waves of confusion, charm, rage, terror and sobbing helplessness – has been quite the awards magnet: Kenneth Cranham won an Olivier in 2016 for his performance in the London production, while Frank Langella took home the Tony in New York.

Zeller had a dream actor in mind for the movie version so, as he embarked on the screenplay, he switched the character’s name from André to Anthony. “It was a way to make my unrealistic idea a bit more realistic,” says the 41-year-old, Molière award-winning French playwright, with the sheepishness of a grown man confessing to penning Anthony Hopkins fan fiction.

The Father is about what it means to lose everything, including your own bearings

Related: The Father review – Anthony Hopkins drives devastating dementia drama

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4 March 2021, 6:00 am

Rian Treanor: the producer hacking a smarter, kinder future for music

The Rotherham electronic musician is using his skills to tackle dementia, teach children and collaborate across the globe – and dreams of a club where the dancers play the drum machines

Living in lockdown while caring for someone with dementia “isn’t just like Groundhog Day”, chuckles Rian Treanor, “it’s like Groundhog Second.” The soft-spoken electronic music producer has spent a year indoors with three generations of his family – including his producer and sound-artist dad, Mark Fell, and his grandmother, Doreen, who is has late-stage Alzheimer’s. It’s certainly a change of scene for the producer of one of 2020’s most audacious and frenzied dance albums, File Under UK Metaplasm.

Instead of the pointillist rave and singeli – a high-speed Tanzanian style – that influenced that record, the Treanor-Fell household playlist is geared towards Doreen’s favourites, particularly dub reggae and Hawaiian-style steel guitar. “When she listens to that she’s completely in the zone, she astrally projects into it,” marvels Treanor. Music has a powerful effect on brains damaged by dementia, unlocking memories and opening up non-verbal channels of communication, so they tried Doreen on a piano next, knowing that she’d grown up with one. When the keys proved too complicated, Fell designed a set of blocks for her to use, described by Treanor as “squares with little notches cut out that create different chord shapes”.

Related: Public house music: Mark Fell on making art in a derelict boozer

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3 March 2021, 10:30 am

Former Scotland defender Gordon McQueen diagnosed with dementia

  • McQueen played for Manchester United and Leeds
  • Family say he wonders whether heading has been a factor

Gordon McQueen, who was revered for his bravery in the air in a career during which he played for Leeds and Manchester United and earned 30 caps for Scotland, has warned modern-day footballers of the risks of heading balls after he was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

His family said that although the 68-year-old was still fully aware of his friends and relatives, his cognitive functions were no longer the same. They said he feared that heading a ball repeatedly may have been a factor.

Related: Families of Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles back new concussion campaign

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23 February 2021, 1:35 pm

'The clouds cleared': what terminal lucidity teaches us about life, death and dementia

Just before Alex Godfrey’s grandmother died from dementia, she snapped back to lucidity and regaled him with stories of her youth. Could moments like this teach us more about the workings of the brain?

It was the red jelly that did it. It was Christmas 1999 in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Ward Porterfield, 83, was in a nursing home. He had been diagnosed with dementia three years earlier; he was confused and disoriented and eventually he no longer recognised his daughter, Kay. “When I went in,” she says of her later visits, “he didn’t know me at all.” That Christmas, he refused to eat. “Finally I just told them: ‘Bring him jello, he likes jello. Red jello.’ And he looked at me, really deeply, and said: ‘So. I suppose the jello’s gonna be my last meal. You’re gonna try to starve me, eh?’ That was like: ‘What’s going on here?’”

Her surprise wasn’t just at his coherence, but that the tone of this reply was undeniably her father’s dry humour. Later that night, nurses told Kay, when children visited to sing carols, tears streamed down Ward’s face. Kay becomes emotional recounting it. “Don’t cry,” a nurse told him. Ward looked at her. “If you were in my position, you’d cry too,” he said. “These are the last Christmas carols I’ll ever hear.”

Related: Alastair Hignell knows more than most that memories are precious

Related: The dementia that can be cured

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23 February 2021, 10:00 am

Haskell and Cudmore launch new lobby group with letter to World Rugby

  • ‘Progressive Rugby’ want urgent reforms to the sport
  • ‘World Rugby has a moral duty to minimise risk’

Jamie Cudmore and James Haskell are at the head of a new lobby group called Progressive Rugby, which has been launched with an open letter to Sir Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby calling for urgent reforms to the sport. The 28 signatories have outlined their concerns for rugby which they describe as being “threatened with extinction within a couple of generations”.

Related: Jones claims England’s poor Six Nations start down to drop in ‘arousal level’

Related: Third member of France’s management team tests positive for Covid-19

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18 February 2021, 12:01 am

Alastair Hignell knows more than most that memories are precious

Former England full-back is backing the Sporting Memories Foundation that helps those with dementia by talking about sport with them

The Six Nations approaches and, with it, the annual riptide of memories. Can it really be 50 years ago this weekend, for example, since Wales beat Scotland at Murrayfield courtesy of “the greatest conversion since St Paul” by a bushy haired, bearded John Taylor? Or 45 years since JPR Williams’s old-school shoulder charge on the French wing Jean-François Gourdon that helped yield another Welsh grand slam? Unforgettable moments.

They are also the foundation stones upon which today’s tournament rests. It can sometimes be easier to remember Taylor’s finest hour – the highlights of that 1971 game are as evocative as the flanker’s uncanny likeness to Roy Wood out of Wizzard – or JPR’s intervention than the finer points (there weren’t many) of England’s last game against Wales. In this locked-down sporting world, that famous old live album of Max Boyce’s – I Know Cos – I Was There!” – feels even more nostalgic.

Related: Home nations weigh up joint bid for 2031 Rugby World Cup

Related: Gregor Townsend: ‘There is no bigger test than going to Twickenham’

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2 February 2021, 11:09 am

How everyday objects can improve quality of life for people with dementia

A new training programme in care homes shows how mundane tasks like making a drink or polishing is good for residents’ wellbeing

“When you woke this morning the clothes you planned to wear were gone. The shower gel smelt weird – it wasn’t your usual. There was no hairdryer to dry your hair. You wanted to make a hot drink but you had no access to a kettle … How is your day going? How do you feel? Welcome to the lives of many people with dementia living in care homes.”

This is the opening of a new training programme for care home staff developed by Dr Kellyn Lee, chartered psychologist and research fellow in ageing and dementia at the University of Southampton. Called material citizenship, it aims to get staff thinking about the importance of mundane, functional objects to our lives and identities, and how giving their residents agency over these things can significantly improve their wellbeing.

Related: The music project helping people with dementia find their voice during lockdown

To watch a short video on material citizenship:

For more information contact Dr Kellyn Lee

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14 January 2021, 7:30 am

Robin's Wish review – how a comedy giant was destroyed by dementia

This informative insight into the little-known disease that killed Robin Williams is affecting but bleak

The genius of Robin Williams is taken as a given by this intensely sad documentary, which pays fleeting tribute to the actor and comedian’s talent but focuses mainly on the undiagnosed neurodegenerative disease that led him to take his own life in 2014.

Lewy body dementia is a deadly and devastating condition, one that is little known and frequently misdiagnosed. And for someone like Williams, whose brilliance depended on the quickfire, sparking neural connections of his exceptional brain, the symptoms, which include fear, delusions and hallucinations, must have been particularly terrifying.

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10 January 2021, 11:30 am

Mother review – a heartbreaking inquiry into the cost of dementia

Kristof Bilsen’s stunning doc assesses the disease’s toll on patients and carers trapped in the international care-market

Shakespeare’s line about “second childishness and mere oblivion” – the last of the seven ages of man bleakly proclaimed by Jacques in As You Like It – might come back to you watching this. This very moving and profound documentary, from director Kristof Bilsen and executive producer Kirsten Johnson (Dick Johnson Is Dead), is about dementia, dementia care, the globalised market in compassion and what society deems to be woman’s work.

My colleague Charlie Phillips enthused about this film in 2019 and I can only agree. It is a deeply affecting portrait of what it means to be a professional caregiver; and what it means for both patient and nurse to be separated from their families by fate, biology and market forces.

Related: ‘Films must be honest about tragedy’: the director putting dementia on screen

Mother is released on digital formats on 11 January.

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5 January 2021, 1:00 pm

Football still 'in the dark' about long-term risk of heading ball, says Southgate

  • England manager supports more research into dementia risk
  • ‘Everybody is more aware than ever of the impact of the illness’

Gareth Southgate believes football remains “in the dark” about the long-term risks of heading the ball and concussions sustained on the pitch.

Many former players have dementia or have died from the disease and the England manager, a former centre-half, has led calls for increased research regarding the game’s risks.

Related: Sport and dementia: ‘Something needs to happen now’

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5 January 2021, 10:56 am

Avoid using wood burning stoves if possible, warn health experts

Charity calls for people to use alternative, less polluting heating and cooking options if they can

Campaigners and health experts are calling on people who have alternative heating not to use their wood burning stoves this winter amid growing concern about their impact on public health.

The Guardian recently reported that wood burners triple the level of harmful particulates inside the home as well as creating dangerous levels of pollution in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Related: Wood burners triple harmful indoor air pollution, study finds

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1 January 2021, 11:05 am

Robin Williams's widow: 'There were so many misunderstandings about what had happened to him'

Susan Schneider Williams watched her husband suffer with undiagnosed Lewy body dementia before he killed himself in 2014. A new film tries to educate others about the condition – and put to rest assumptions about his death

After Robin Williams died in August 2014, aged 63, a lot of people had a lot of things to say about him. There was the predictable speculation about why a hugely beloved and seemingly healthy Hollywood star would end his own life, with some confidently stating that he was depressed or had succumbed to old addictions.

Others talked, with more evidence, about Williams as a comic genius (Mork & Mindy, Mrs Doubtfire, The Birdcage, Aladdin); a brilliant dramatic actor (Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo); and both (Good Morning, Vietnam; The Fisher King). One thing everyone agreed on was that he had an extraordinary mind. Comedians spoke about how no one thought faster on stage than Williams; those who made movies with him said he never did the same take twice, always ad-libbing and getting funnier each time.

Related: Robin Williams remembered: ‘A remarkable performer, a brutal shock’

Related: Robin Williams: ‘I was shameful, did stuff that caused disgust – that’s hard to recover from’

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1 January 2021, 10:00 am

Robin's Wish review – sad salute to a master comedian

This warm documentary about Robin Williams reveals how much he was loved by those who knew him

When Robin Williams died in 2014 at the age of 63, the tabloids filled in the blanks. The front pages speculated on the return of his well-documented demons: Williams had a history of depression, alcohol addiction and cocaine use. Then came the postmortem, revealing that actually he’d been suffering from an undiagnosed degenerative brain disease, Lewy body dementia. Which explained his symptoms in last 18 or so months of life: Parkinson’s-like tremors, visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions and sleep disturbance. As a neurologist puts it, he must have been terrified.

In this sensitive, desperately sad documentary, Williams’s widow, Susan Schneider, along with friends and colleagues, describes his decline. For a while, things just hadn’t seemed right. There’s footage from the set of his final movie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb; he looks blank and distracted – the alertness and anarchic wit gone. “He was just sort of off,” says a friend. He couldn’t remember his lines. He hadn’t slept for months. There were times he followed Susan around the house.

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30 December 2020, 12:00 pm