Wonderland. Granny’s Moving In

BBC dementia documentary film on living with the disease

Dementia documentary into caring for somebody with dementia

With the rising retirement care home costs in the UK more and more people are having to move an elderly relative into their own home. The BBC has made a documentary about the subject and the programme was shown last night on BBC 2.

The 1 hour documentary is about a couple called Sue and Phil Carroll who have Sue’s 83-year-old mum, who is in the early stages of dementia, comes to live with them in their home.

By Paddy Wivell – Shown on the BBC 2  on 7/3/12

Peggy’s care free living

The focus of the BBC dementia documentary programme is what its like when Sue’s mum, called Peggy, who suffers from vascular dementia, comes to live with them in their home. They have lived together before. which did not work out.

Peggy has sold her house and is moving into the garage of Phil and Sue, which has been converted into a living annex for Sue’s mum Peggy. We take a brief look at snippets from the programme –

Sue visits her Mum Peggy, at her house, which should be packed up and ready for the move but Peggy has forgotten. We watch as Sue and her mum argue over what possessions to keep. “Peggy’s behavior is that of a ten-year old,” Sue announces, “she behaves like a child at times, it’s very difficult to deal with, she winds you up”. Sue explains that Peggy is hard to care for because her mum has always been very independent.

One thing in the programme that does come across from the start is that Peggy is very care free, almost comical in the way she behaves. I found myself laughing at the way Peggy behaves, I was laughing with her mind, not at her. She was a very likable character.

You can see the worry through the smiles on Sue’s face though. When Peggy returns late at night, 10.30 pm,  after a day out in London, Sue talks to her about her experience. “We were going to ring the hospitals”, Sue says, do you know the anxiety you are causing”.

“It’s a terrible disease dementia , yet she goes out more times than I do. She’s enjoying herself on the happy pills. I could do with some of them myself”, Phil announces through a smiling face. When discussing Peggy’s disease.”

When it comes to moving home and sorting Peggy’s things out of the house we see the real frustration that comes with a person with dementia having to move home. They have to decide which of Peggy’s items to keep and which to get rid of. Peggy wants to keep everything yet Sue is more practical. Peggy is again comical in the way she approaches everything with the odd sharp comment thrown at Sue.

“Do you know something I can’t stand this house“, Peggy announces when she arrives to stay at her daughter’s house. I just want you to carry on as normal Sue explains over dinner.

Recording daily life of somebody with dementia

Over the next few weeks the family record by way of a video diary what happens and the programme looks at short snippets of daily life that has been recorded by the family. Peggy’s still looks at life through rose-tinted glass whilst Sue is more practical , explaining how things like personal hygiene are a concern she has with her mother.

Next we watch as Sue is waiting for Peggy to return home. “I wonder how may 83-year-old are out in the dark,” Sue says whilst sat worrying where her mother is after Peggy has gone out dancing. “Where you been” Sue asks Peggy when she finally returns, “I’ve been to see Bill”, “You said you would be back for 2.30″ explains Sue to her mother, “I was having a good time” Peggy says.

After 6 weeks of living together we return to see how they are coping with living together. Sue and Phil explain how Peggy has been behaving erratically. The programme then shows the reality of what it can be like, Peggy has a real tantrum in which she swears constantly using very strong language at her daughter and son-in-law.

We later see Sue talking about the past. “She did her best and I’ll do my best” Sue explains, when reminiscing over her mother’s life. “I’m sure she loves me, it’s just her way of showing it”. Sue says through tears.

At a trip to the doctors we join Peggy talking to the doctor.  The MRI scan on Peggy’s brain shows that there is more shrinkage of the brain, confirming that Peggy is also suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

We join the family again 2 months later when Peggy finally moves into the granny annex. Sue shows her mum around and explains that she will be independent but they will still be neighbours. “At least I have a good neighbours”, Peggy explains. “I’m just looking forward to getting on with my life”, Peggy says to the cameraman.

“This day represents as much normality as we can both get. This is our new life, for both of us”, say Phil and Sue as they look through their window at Peggy closing the door to her new annex. “It’s fit for a Queen” Peggy’s says to the cameraman, “I couldn’t wish for a nicer daughter”

The programme ends with Peggy locking the door of her new annex, “where you going”, the cameraman says, “Dancing, I’m going dancing” she says with a smile on her face.

What we thought of the BBC dementia documentary

The BBC dementia documentary programme gave a very good insight into what it’s like to live with and care for somebody who is suffering from dementia. It used both comedy and reality to give an inside view of the concerns a family carer has when facing the reality of having to care for a  relative with the awful disease.

It was clear during the programme how much they all love Peggy, including Peggy’s granddaughter, but the stress of having someone live with you who has the advancing stages of dementia were at times, clear to see all through the programme. It was a story well told, well made and well worth watching.

Well done BBC – Watch the dementia documentary on the BBC iplayer – It’s available until Wed, 14 Mar 2012


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  • Saky Gill

    Well done BBC. This was a well made documentary and gave a true insight into the world of dementia sufferers. I was able to sympathise with Sue, having experienced a similar situation when my husband’s grandmother moved into my house and lived with me for 3 years! Although her main carer was my mother in law (grandmother’s daughter) who incidentally also lives with me, the relationship between Sue and Peggy was a mirror image of the relationship between my mother in law and her mother! Very interesting viewing!

  • sue carroll

    Thank you so much for the support and favourable comments about the programme. The only negativity We seem to experience is from threads (from carers beleive it or not) which have a “well, you wait till you really cant cope she’ll get much worse” brigade. They obviously have missed the whole point that we are making the most of her relatively early stage so that she enjoys herself NOW and we are fully aware of what tomorrow holds and are ready with Plan B and C . Arisept could hold her together for a few more years yet (if current research is to be beleived). There are also those who do not realise that the Annexe is supplementary to her en suite bedsit room with inter- connecting door to the house (good for sneaking in and checking when we are worried). Long may this arrangement reign. As to my arguing well thats where the progrmmes honesty comes in. Im a working woman and never been a carer before. If a viewer hears arguing then its arguing and I will have to learn, but the arrangement is as good as it gets TODAY.

  • KT

    Hello Sue! I don’t know if you did any any interviews to publicise the programme? I didn’t see any so really interesting to read your comments, are you referring to the comments on the altzheimer’s society forum? It would be great if you could post there to update us with your progress, but fully understand if you don’t want to (I read it for help but don’t post much).

    Having just moved my mother from her home to a bungalow the scenes were you were arguing over every little item were painfully familiar, as was caring for a mum you’d had a difficult relationship with, and fruitlessly trying to reason with an altzheimer’s sufferer, done (do) all that! Make loads of mistakes, but do my best.

    I was curious how you came to make this programme and what the experience was like? You came across as a very nice family.

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