A one-off BBC One drama tells the story of a sin­gle mum who be­comes her mother’s carer af­ter she falls ill. By

Ge­or­gia Humphreys

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

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.

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