It’s one of Emmerdale’s most heartbreaking storylines ever as we watch Ashley Thomas deteriorate rapidly as his Alzheimer’s takes hold, but will wife Laurel finally admit she can’t cope?
Laurel’s been putting on a brave face for a while, pretending she’s on top of everything when really she’s struggling with both Ashley and a young baby to look after.
Gabby can see the strain Laurel’s under, and wanting to help, offers to look after little Dotty for the day. Laurel’s grateful for the teen’s support and heads out to get some things done.
Unbeknown to Laurel though, Ashley’s carer, Will, calls in sick leaving Gabby alone to care for her father and her sister.
Wanting to give her stepmother a break, Gabby soldiers on, but with Ashley’s lucid moments few and far between, things soon take a devastating turn.
Laurel returns home to find the place empty, and then Pollard arrives with a very confused Ashley. There’s no sign of Gabby and Dotty though – where are they? Are they okay?
Horrified that the situation has got so bad and put her daughter and stepdaughter at risk, Laurel’s at her wits end.
Doug and Diane are concerned for her well-being and offer to step in and give Laurel a break.
At first Laurel refuses to leave her husband, but her father forces her out of the house, insisting they have everything under control.
Only they don’t.
It’s not long before the true extent of Ashley’s needs hits Doug and Diane and they can’t believe Laurel’s coping with this on her own when they can’t cope with two of them.
They’re desperate not to let Laurel know they struggled with Ashley though, but it’s not long before she works it out and is heartbroken to realise the truth.
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As her husband’s condition begins to take it’s toll, Laurel’s forced to make a gut-wrenching decision.
Can she continue caring for her husband or is she going to have to accept help and put him in a home? It’s not what she wants to do, but will she be left with no choice?
Actor John Middleton, who plays Ashley, has revealed he’s leaving the show as part of this storyline. It’s hard to see how his condition could get much worse – are we at the end of the line for Ashley?