Entertainment

Monday 24 July 2017

Christopher Eccleston reveals heartache over father's dementia

The actor has opened a new institute in his home town.

By Katie Archer

Christopher Eccleston has told how the effects of dementia hit home when his father threw him out of the house on Christmas Day because he did not recognise his son.

The former Doctor Who star’s father, Ronnie Eccleston, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2000 and died in 2012 aged 83.

Christopher opened the Institute For Dementia at Salford University in his home town on Wednesday and spoke about how the condition had devastated his own family.

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He told the Manchester Evening News: “My father threw me out of his home on Christmas Day, which upset my mother, Elsie, deeply.

“He didn’t know who I was. He felt I was on his territory. I made him paranoid. I made him afraid, so he basically got me out of the house, what I mean is, I understood I needed to leave, so he could be more comfortable.

“My mum was very upset by that and I had to gently say to my mum, ‘look, that wasn’t my dad. My dad would never throw me out of his house, that was his condition’.”

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Christopher, 53, said that watching his father realise he was ill had been particularly difficult.

He said: “Once he was at a party, at my brother’s house, and knocked over a cup of tea.

“My brother said it was fine, but my father’s embarrassment and anxiety escalated to the point where he was on his knees, repeating: ‘What’s happening to me, what’s happening to me? I am Ronnie Eccleston’. It was devastating.”

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The Our Friends In The North actor said that his father’s symptoms, which had included an obsession with telling him to cut the grass and hedges, and forgetting to bring tickets to Manchester United football matches at Old Trafford, had begun in 1997.

He said that his father had dementia for 15 years and his mother was his carer for 14 of them, before Ronnie moved into a care home for the final year of his life.

Calling on the Government to do more to support carers, he said: “Carers are not recognised enough for the financial and practical support they provide.

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“My mother did get some respite, but it’s difficult because he always wanted her and she would suffer when they were apart, wondering whether he was eating or if people were being kind to him.

“One day, she asked him, ‘Ronnie, do you know who I am?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know, but I love you’.”

He continued: “Unfortunately we are more and more dependent on charities because as a nation the option that we should care for our citizens is no longer there, and it should be.

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“In 1945, we decided we would care for our citizens and that has slowly been eroded.

“The Government needs to have an initiative where carers are paid and celebrated and acknowledged.”

The Salford Institute For Dementia will host researchers and offer help to people with the disease and their families.

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