James Nesbitt has told of the relief he felt after his mother lost her lengthy battle against Alzheimer’s disease.
The Northern Ireland-born star had been filming The Hobbit when his mother May died in June last year – almost 10 years after she developed the debilitating condition.
He said: “As I flew back from New Zealand to bury my mother it occurred to me that no matter how harrowing her loss was and how keenly it will always be felt, there was nevertheless a sense of relief, that my father, sisters and I could say a final goodbye after the longest goodbye. And, relief that my mum had finally been released. It is a shocking disease.”
James, who is chancellor of the University of Ulster, was speaking at a conference in Belfast where hundreds of the world’s leading dementia doctors and scientists had gathered to discuss the latest research developments.
He revealed personal details of how the disease had gripped his mother.
James said: “About five years ago when it was becoming apparent that Mum could no longer live at home I flew back to try and help deal with the situation. She had reached what I consider to be the true nadir of the Alzheimer’s condition – flitting between the present and the past; reality and fantasy; rage and fear.
“At midnight during a storm she wanted to go out and find her father – he had died over 40 years previously. In the past I had always been able to soothe her by accompanying her on these trips on the pretence of getting her an ice-cream. But this night she was determined to go alone. So, as my mother strode off, bent and bow-legged, I followed her and watched the woman who had bore me, nurtured and chastised me, who taught me how to love and how to be loved, disappear into the teeth of an Ulster gale and out of my life. It was a poignant image and savage reminder of the havoc that Alzheimer’s wreaks.”
The actor said the Government must take urgent action and make Alzheimer’s research a new priority.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is supporting research projects worth over £20 million at universities.