This Morning host Ruth Langsford couldn’t hold back the tears as she interviewed Emmerdale’s John Middleton, and thanked him for his accurate portrayal of life with dementia.
John plays Ashley Thomas in the ITV soap, who has been struggling to adjust to life with Alzheimer’s, and features in a special episode of the programme on Tuesday night, filmed from his point of view.
Ruth, whose father had dementia, sat alongside him during the interview for ITV’s This Morning and shared her experiences with John.
The chat started with Eamonn stressing how important it is that such an educational subject is shown as John explained: “Tonight’s episode will be different because we will try to show the world how Ashley sees the world. You get to see the distorted view he has because of the disease.
“At one point, he think he is fully clothed but everyone else can see he is in pyjamas.”
Talking about Ashley becoming confused over how to pay for things in a shop, Ruth said: “That actually hit home to me, that scene – I was lucky enough to see a preview of tonight’s show – but for somebody with a family member with Alzheimer’s, things rang so true for me.
“I remember my dad struggling – and he was a bright man … he would have his hand out and would say ‘take what you want’ because he was looking at blank coins in his head, I suppose.”
John replied: “If we do anything with tonight’s story, it’s to encourage people that when they see people confused, to maybe help. Don’t assume they are just off their head a bit, they may well have some form of dementia.”
Talking about Ashley’s on-screen wife Laurel, Ruth said: “When she said ‘I am looking at my husband but it’s not really my husband’, it’s really, really hard for families, because I felt that.
“My dad was there in body, the shell of my dad, but he wasn’t there, and the hardest thing is when your loved one doesn’t remember you. That’s so painful.”
She added: “Although some things were comical, and when he eventually was in a care home, my mum was visiting him with my aunt and uncle and they had This Morning on, and my aunt said, ‘oh look, there’s Ruth’, and he looked over and said, ‘Oh, I can’t stand her!’, and you had to laugh.”
A tearful Ruth told John: “What really struck home with me watching tonight’s episode is the fear you portrayed. I used to see that.”
She added: “It has been brilliant on Emmerdale – it’s been a brilliant long storyline, as for most people it is a slow process. Obviously for some people it is sadly a faster deterioration, but for most it isn’t. I appreciate that you’ve done this slow burn.
“What really struck home with me in tonight’s episode is the fear that your portrayed. I used to see that in his eyes a lot.”
At the end of the interview, she said: “I would like to say thank you from families because it’s not often that dementia gets represented so well, and I think as a programme and you particularly, John, as an actor have done it so brilliantly. So thank you.”
John replied: “That’s the best award I could possibly imagine or ask for, thank you.”
As she sat down next to her husband Eamonn Holmes later on, Ruth said: “I’m fine. I always get a bit upset talking about my dad, but it’s so important.”