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How Gerry Anderson’s family spotted the early signs of dementia

AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

Remember Gerry Anderson, the late creator of Thunderbirds and many other classic TV series? ITVX has uploaded a documentary, Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted, about his life that’s well worth watching if you have an elderly relative.

Gerry sadly lived with Alzheimer’s for the last few years of his life, a fact that I was unaware of before I watched this documentary. The last 25 minutes of the film talk about his family’s experiences of dealing with his condition.

The most important takeaway for me was examples of the early signs of the dementia. If you spot any of these signs in your relatives, it’s worth getting them to make a Lasting Power of Attorney. That way, your life will be considerably easier when you have to deal with it.

If it’s early enough in the progression of dementia, they should still be able to make a Lasting Power of Attorney. But if you leave it too long, it could be too late because you can only make a Power of Attorney if you still have mental capacity.

Warning signs

So what were the initial signs for Gerry Anderson? Getting lost was one. He once took so long to drive home from Pinewood Studios, his family thought he’d got lost on the way home.

His spatial awareness became very poor, to the extent that he would drive his Rolls Royce over the lane markings. And later, he would mistake a TV remote for a phone.

It’s especially interesting to learn how Gerry reacted to his loved ones during this period – an odd tendency to put down the phone when his daughter called him, and anger when questioned.

To find more about the early signs, the Alzheimer’s Society has a list of common symptoms here.

His family, being human, put many of these things down to forgetfulness or old age rather than a change in character. This was Gerry Anderson after all – man with towering achievements in conceiving hit TV shows that we can still enjoy today.

Plus, if you have not been around anyone with dementia, you have no experience of how it affects people.

Eventually the clues added up so much that they got a diagnosis, which turned out to be Alzheimer’s. The documentary covers in detail how they handled this diagnosis and helped Gerry live with it, ultimately putting him into a care home.

It’s worth watching this part of the programme if nothing else (though the rest is equally interesting). It’s poignant, and hard to watch. But for many of us it will shed light on an issue we will have to face.

For further information, download free factsheets on Wills, Trusts, Inheritance Tax, Lasting Power of Attorney and more.

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