She was no stranger to tugging on our heartstrings (and tear ducts) as Sister Evangelina in Call the Midwife but actress Pam Ferris has had her own share of heartache.
Pam, who's also well-known for playing Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May, has recorded the voiceover for a new animation from Alzheimer's Research UK, after revealing a personal experience of the disease.
Pam wanted to get involved in the project having seen first hand the devastating impact of Alzheimer's Disease as Elizabeth Frost, Pam's mother-in-law and mother to her actor husband Roger Frost, developed Alzheimer's in her late seventies before she passed away away in 2015, aged 99.
“I was only too happy to support this vital project to help people understand the true impact of dementia, and what’s being done to tackle it. It’s a cause very close to my hear," says Pam. The thought-provoking film was developed in collaboration with production studio Brickwall and brings together information and statistics about the impact of dementia in the UK and around the world. The animation also highlights the difference being made through research, and the progress Alzheimer’s Research UK is making in the fight against the condition.
“My mother-in-law, Elizabeth, lived in Hackney and was a proper east ender. She was a real grafter – a lovely, selfless woman. Even into her eighties she was up a ladder cleaning the windows or taking a Sunday dinner round to one of what she called ‘elderly neighbours’.
“But we first realised something was wrong when she turned up at our house unexpectedly at an unlikely time of day. From there, things got progressively worse, and the circular, repetitive conversations started. Then she began experiencing hallucinations, and she thought people were in her house or that she’d been burgled. She even set the house on fire a couple of times.
“The turning point came when she developed a bladder infection and she was admitted to hospital. That’s when her Alzheimer’s diagnosis was confirmed.
“After bouncing around the care system for a while, she ended up back in Hackney in a wonderful care home, where she remained for the final 15 years of her life. At first, she was convinced she worked there, and would tell us she had to keep all the residents happy. To make her feel as comfortable as possible, we redecorated her room, putting life-size faces of her family at head height along the wall. She would often talk to them in preference to anyone in the room. We were very lucky we found somewhere she was happy and safe.
“I’m proud to have lent my voice to this animation, and hope people will watch it, share it and support Alzheimer’s Research UK’s vital work."
For more information on the latest facts and figures on dementia, visit Alzheimer’s Research UK’s new Dementia Statistics Hub at www.dementiastatistics.org