CRICKET legend Sir Ian Botham has described seeing a loved-one with dementia as like watching someone “die twice over” in an interview in support of National Dementia Week.
Sir Ian spoke for the first time about his father’s dementia earlier this year in Australia during a pre-Ashes speaking tour, when he attended as a guest at an Alzeheimer’s Australia event.
He said he had not made his father’s disease public before out of respect for his dad, who he said “had no idea who or what he was at the end”.
In a more recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, Sir Ian said he was unable to visit his father for the last six months of his life, saying: “I didn’t want my memory of him to be distorted by the illness that robbed him of himself”.
He said in the end he urged his mother to do the same, but despite her husband having no idea who she was and bearing no resemblance to her devoted spouse, she couldn’t bring herself to do the same.
Sir Ian said his father was “as near to a zombie as you can imagine” by the end and said his father, a former aeronautical engineer, would have been “mortified” if he had known the “humiliation” that lay ahead.
The sportsman recalled when he initially began to realise something was not quite right with his father when the pair were at a golf club.
"The man taught me to play golf when I was three, but he had forgotten how to play it," he said.
Sir Ian described watching his father deteriorate as "appalling", and said his mother "aged years" and would cry after every visit to see his father.
"That's the terrible thing about dementia - you watch someone die twice over," he said.
His father made arrangements to donate his brain to Alzheimer’s research during the earlier stages of the disease. Sir Ian said because of that, and other people who have done the same, they have made massive inroads into the disease in the past 12 months.
The Government has pledged to double the funding for research into Alzheimer’s to find a cure or effective treatment.
About 800,000 people suffer from dementia in Britain. In most cases it is caused by Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that damages the brain.