Last week saw the conclusion of Emmerdale’s long running dementia storyline, with John Middleton delivering a heartbreaking final performance as his character Ashley Thomas bowed out of the soap after finally succumbing to his illness.
Viewers have watched Ashley’s story unfold since he was diagnosed with vascular dementia following a stroke. In December, an entire episode focused on seeing the world through Ashley’s eyes, showing the daily struggles he faced living with the condition.
The show’s producers worked closely with dementia charities throughout the creation of the storyline. John Middleton also took part in care home visits meeting sufferers and their families. When interviewed, John spoke of the importance of these visits in ensuring what was portrayed on screen was as accurate as possible.
“As I started researching vascular dementia, I thought we had a huge responsibility to get it right. A lot of people have first-hand experience and awareness of dementia so meeting people with dementia and their carers has been vital.”
John continued, “the way in which we have told the story is quite challenging but we are hoping to give at least something of an insight into what the world is like for someone living with dementia.”
Dementia affects an estimated 850,000 people in the UK. It is a progressive condition causing a loss of brain function that can result in memory loss, confusion and difficulty with speech. The number of sufferers is set to increase over the next few years to around 1 million by 2025. Currently an estimated 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have been diagnosed with dementia, making it one of the biggest health issues of the modern era.