Actor James Nesbitt has told of the relief he felt after his mother lost her lengthy battle against Alzheimer's disease.
The Northern Ireland-born star had been filming The Hobbit when his mother May died in June last year - almost 10 years after she developed the debilitating condition.
He said: "As I flew back from New Zealand to bury my mother it occurred to me that no matter how harrowing her loss was and how keenly it will always be felt, there was nevertheless a sense of relief, that my father, sisters and I could say a final goodbye after the longest goodbye. And, relief that my mum had finally been released.
"It is a shocking disease."
Nesbitt, who is chancellor of the University of Ulster, was speaking at a major conference in Belfast where hundreds of the world's leading dementia doctors and scientists had gathered to discuss the latest research developments.
He said: "I have seen at first hand the devastating impact it has. Not only did it rob my mother of her own identity but it robbed us of a chance to communicate with her in the last few years. It was a very, very long goodbye."
Currently 820,000 people are affected by Alzheimer's disease across the UK but, with an ageing population, that figure is expected to significantly increase over the next decade. Nesbitt said the Government must take urgent action and make Alzheimer's research a new priority.
"The only thing that will tackle Alzheimer's is a treatment," he added. "The only way of finding a treatment is through research and the only way of doing research is through funding."
Alzheimer's Research UK is supporting research projects worth over £20 million at universities, including the University of Ulster.
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: " We know that dementia scientists in the UK punch above their weight on the world stage. Our conference is an important way to bring together this world-leading talent in one room - forging partnerships and sharing expertise that is vital to move us towards a cure."