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Top film aids appeal for sufferers

PUBLISHED: 20:35 23 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:14 03 March 2010

THE FILMING of a British movie right here in Suffolk, has brought the spotlight down on an appeal to help Alzheimer sufferers and their carers.

Just this week Jim Broadbent won a Golden Globe award for his supporting actor role in the film Iris -which is also tipped for the Oscars.

THE FILMING of a British movie right here in Suffolk, has brought the spotlight down on an appeal to help Alzheimer sufferers and their carers.

Just this week Jim Broadbent won a Golden Globe award for his supporting actor role in the film Iris –which is also tipped for the Oscars.

Health and Social Services Editor Tracey Sparling asks what the backing of big names Dame Judi Dench and Kate Winslet will mean to the future of a new Ipswich respite centre.

A CHILL wind scours a Suffolk beach, which lies deserted on a winter's day.

The film cameras have gone, and the stars have headed home – but only after throwing Southwold into the national spotlight in Iris, which is fast becoming known as one of the country's top home-grown films.

It tells the story of author Dame Iris Murdoch who wrote 26 novels – but by the time her last was on bookshop shelves, she couldn't physically write due to the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.

The story is based on the book IRIS - A Memoir, written by her husband John Bayley, and it looks at his love of her throughout their life together and deals with the devastating effect Alzheimer's had.

Iris died in 1999, and the latter part of the book dealt poignantly with the effect of Alzheimer's on her, as well as John's extraordinarily selfless devotion to his wife of 43 years.

Dame Judi Dench and Kate Winslet both play her at different ages, and are tipped for Oscars. Supproting actor Jim Boradbent won a Golden Globe award just this week.

And with the afterglow of their fame still warming Suffolk, comes fortune – this time for a Suffolk project to help Alzheimer's sufferers and their carers.

Age Concern had plans for a respite and daycare centre in the Ipswich area - the likes of which would have helped Iris Murdoch and her husband John cope with the illness - long before the actors enlisted to play them arrived on the sands at Southwold.

But the film's subject was so amazingly relevant to the ARC project, that it has given it a huge boost – both in terms of raising awareness and financial support.

It raised the profile of dementia, in a box-office medium that will reach thousands more people than might otherwise have expressed any interest.

The charity premiere of the film at Aldeburgh last week raised more than £6,500 for the cause.

Nick Winch ARC development manager said, "There was a fantastic response to this premiere.

"The film has really caught the imagination of the public and the stars' support has been wonderful.

"Our aim at the premiere was to raise awareness of the plight of people caring for someone with dementia such as Alzheimer's and therefore the need for the ARC centre.

"The money raised on the night and the higher profile of our campaign will help us achieve this.

"We now need the support of major funders to raise £2.5 million to complete the centre."

The appeal has raised £275,000 so far and organisers can now start asking major trust funds for cash towards the centre.

The centre, to be built within a ten-mile radius of Ipswich, will be the first of its kind in the country, designed around individuals' needs.

It will offer people:

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Support 24 hours a day.

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A safe environment where people who care for those with dementia know that their loved ones will receive the care they deserve.

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Design features like safe walkways, to suit people who become confused and wander.

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16 bedrooms, each one adaptable to allow the carer to stay with their loved one if they wish

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24-hour 'day care' rooms offering support day and night for 32 people and their carers, when they need it.

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A telephone helpline.

Mr Winch said the centre will allow carers to have a break from the relentless task of looking after someone at home, whether for a few hours or a few days at a time.

He added: "People with dementia don't always have a steady sleep pattern so the person looking after them is on call 24 hours a day. That is very draining."

Film director Richard Eyre is another who knows that many people need a break as they struggle to care for someone with Alzheimer's.

He said: "There's no doubt in my mind that what John Bayley did in looking after Iris was an act of heroism.

"He was obviously not terribly good at looking after himself, so it was an extraordinarily selfless act of love to continue to look after her and I found that tremendously moving. There was a major shift in their relationship - from Iris being the dominant partner, the person that John very much looked up to and deferred to - to her being completely dependent on him. One of the characteristics of the illness is that it peels away what is extraneous to reveal the essence of their relationship. That's a fascinating journey, and it's a journey that spans her whole life."

Mr Eyre's own mother suffered from Alzheimer's and he said: "The particular agony of Alzheimer's is that it robs a person of their being and of their personality.

"Although in some ways they remain who they are, somehow they are constantly diminished and you just see the person they once were gradually disappear. It's agonising. One of the things that I've tried to show in the film is that even though the person is disappearing in front of you, in some way there is a sense in which they remain.

"You can still love the person because their soul is still there until the end."

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The film is showing in Ipswich at the UGC .

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ARC stands for A.C.C.E.S.S. Respite Care - ACCESS is Age Concern's Confused Elderly Support Service.

Alzheimers factfile:

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia – affecting 55 per cent of dementia sufferers.

It is an incurable physical illness which destroys the mind, and the ability to think, reason and remember.

It can affect anyone, occasionally as young as 30, but is most common among the elderly –affecting one in five aged over 80.

The onset of the illness is very gradual, making it difficult to diagnose.

Early symptoms are forgetfulness, disorientation and restlessness.

Personal words of support from Dame Judi Dench, who became patron of the appeal after being approached while she was filming in the area.

She said: "This is a touching tale of love that transcends the difficulties of Alzheimer's Disease.

The script by Richard Eyre and Charles Wood captures Iris' slow decline – asking her a question, her starting to answer, and then not only not knowing what the next word is, but not remembering anything about the question either. I wish I wasn't quite so like it! I do crosswords all the time to keep it at bay."

Kate Winslett, who flew back to America to publicise the film, said, "I wish everyone involved all the best for the appeal."

Weblink:

www.ace.org.uk

www.miramaxhighlights.com/iris

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