A one-off BBC One drama tells the story of a single mum who becomes her mother’s carer after she falls ill. By
In the UK, women make up 70% of dementia carers — and 20% of those go from full-time to part-time work in order to do it. It’s these statistics that writer Gillian Juckes wanted to focus on in new 90-minute drama Care, which will air on BBC One, and stars Sheridan Smith, Alison Steadman and Sinead Keenan.
Although a fictional account, the topic is something she’s had experience with — and it makes for a heart-wrenching watch.
“We’re not treating dementia with the dignity it deserves,” declares Juckes, who co-wrote the one-off programme with Jimmy McGovern (he’s penned hit dramas such as The Street and Broken).
“It’s an illness, like cancer is an illness, and people are in real pain; they’re not getting the right care.”
Smith (37) plays Jenny, a mother-of-two, raising her girls alone after the departure of her husband, Dave.
She relies heavily on her widowed mum Mary (played by Alison Steadman) for help with childcare, so that she can work full-time at a supermarket.
But when Mary suffers a devastating stroke and develops dementia, Jenny finds her life completely changed — suddenly, she is responsible for looking after her mum and her daughters and cannot carry on working.
Plus, Jenny soon realises she has got a real fight on her hands when it comes to getting the best care for Mary — along with some tough choices to make. It’s a topic which Juckes, who originally wrote Care as a piece of theatre, believes needs more awareness.
“We wouldn’t leave a toddler in the home all day on their own, you’d be prosecuted for it, but that is what’s happening to people in the community.
“We need more nursing homes and it’s not the fault of the NHS, because 24% of their beds are taken with people over the age of 65 with dementia. “It can’t carry on.” Smith, who was born in Lincolnshire, and her co-star, Irish actress Keenan, are asked if they tried to laugh in between takes on set for Care to detract from how dark the material was.
“I think every actor takes it differently and does their own thing,” suggests 40-year-old Keenan, who plays Mary’s other daughter, Claire.
“Myself, if I’m doing heavy scenes, you go, ‘Oh, this is going to be a fun day’. You keep yourself to yourself. You’re not exuberant, you’re not bouncing around between takes.”
“Sinead is incredible at staying in the zone, so to act opposite her was a dream,” gushes Smith, known for her intense roles in shows such as The Moorside and Cilla.
Discussing the challenging role further, she says: “In my mind, dementia is the cruellest disease there is.
“I can only go on being a carer for a parent (her father lost his battle with cancer in 2016) and trying to put my experiences into it.