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24 February 2017

The Trouble with Dad – David Baddiel explores family dementia in revealing TV documentary

David Baddiel made his name on laugh-a-minute shows like ‘The Mary Whitehouse Experience’ and ‘Fantasy Football’, so it should come as no surprise that the comedian’s personal take on his father’s struggle with dementia is laced with humour as well as more painful moments.

Baddiel invited cameras to film his father Colin over the past year to show the reality of life for people living with dementia and also the impact it has on their families. The resulting Channel 4 documentary,The Trouble With Dad’, makes it clear that dementia can take very different forms.

Now 82, Colin Baddiel is among the less than five per cent of people with dementia who have Pick’s disease, a type of frontotemporal dementia with symptoms including apathy, irritation, mood swings, impatience and uncontrolled swearing.

One of the reasons his son made the documentary was to show that dementia doesn’t always mean what the populace at large imagine it means. “People think of someone with dementia sitting with a blanket over their knees, staring at a wall, when there are all sorts of other behaviours,” says David. “In my dad’s case it can mean swearing so much I can no longer take my children to visit him.”

Colin, who now requires 24-hour care, was diagnosed eight years ago, and the moving TV testimony captures what David calls “the dark rainbow” with great tenderness, evident love and unvarnished humour.

“One reason I am a comedian is that from a very early age I was taught there is very little that cannot be said and that saying extreme things to shock may be gratuitous, but can also be very funny. That’s why I have chosen not to be silent about my dad’s dementia; why I have chosen, in this show, in a strange way, to celebrate it.”

Common symptoms of Frontotemporal dementia (Pick’s disease)

  • Personality changes. Changes in how people express their feelings towards others or a lack of understanding of other people’s feelings.
  • Lack of personal awareness. People may fail to maintain their normal level of personal hygiene and grooming.
  • Lack of social awareness. This might include making inappropriate jokes, or showing a lack of tact.
  • Changes in food preference, over-eating or over-drinking.
  • Behaviour changes. People may become more aggressive, develop unusual beliefs, interests or obsessions.
  • Difficulty with simple plans and decisions.
  • Decline in language abilities. People may repeat commonly used words and phrases, or forget the meaning of words. Difficulty recognising people or knowing what objects are for.
  • Day-to-day 
  • memory may be relatively unaffected in the early stages, but concentration problems could give the impression of memory problems.

Symptoms get worse over time, gradually leading to more widespread problems with day-to-day functions. Some people may develop motor problems similar to those seen in Parkinson’s. Over time people can find it harder to swallow, eat, communicate and move. They will require more support to look after themselves. The speed of change can vary widely, but some people live with the condition for more than 15 years.

To discuss residential care for people living with Pick’s disease or other types of dementia, or to arrange a visit to one of our care homes, please contact our ‘Welcome Team’ Michelle or Geraldine (01793 821200).