‘Emmerdale’ has announced plans to air a special episode, aiming to offer viewers a realistic depiction of living with dementia.
The episode - set to air next month - will allow viewers the chance to see the world from the perspective of Ashley Thomas, who has been at the heart of an emotional storyline after being diagnosed with stroke-related early onset vascular dementia last year.
During the past few months, viewers have seen the effect Ashley’s illness has had on both him and his loved ones, as his condition has gradually worsened.
Although the exact details of the episode is being kept under wraps until it airs in December, it sounds as though ‘Emmerdale’ fans are in for an emotional performance.
Series producer Ian MacLeod has said of the upcoming special: “People living with dementia face challenges most of us can barely imagine. So, I took it as a challenge to help people picture this experience – to put them inside the mind of someone living with this condition.
“With this chapter of Ashley’s story, we set out to give people an insight into how ordinary, day-to-day experiences can become disorientating and distressing when refracted through the lens of dementia. Catching a bus, the apparently simple act of buying something in a shop, holding a conversation - all of these become tasks of Herculean scale.
“By telling the episode solely from Ashley’s point of view and seeing things the way he sees them, I hope we’re showing a side of dementia that is seldom represented on television.”
‘Emmerdale’ has been working closely with both the Alzheimer’s Society and MHA (Methodist Homes) to ensure that the portrayal of Ashley’s condition is as accurate as possible.
Director of Operations at the Alzheimer’s Society Kathryn Smith has praised ‘Emmerdale’, saying: “We are incredibly moved that Emmerdale will be filming an episode dedicated to showing the audience the world from Ashley’s point of view.
“Storylines like this can help people raise awareness of dementia and help them to understand how dementia can impact a person’s ability to think, communicate, process new information and break down the stigma that is still associated with the disease.”
Ashley Thomas is played by soap actor John Middleton, who first joined ‘Emmerdale’ back in 1996, and while it’s been confirmed he’s leaving at the end of the current storyline, it’s not yet known when that will be.
Addressing his character’s life with dementia in an interview with HuffPost UK earlier this year, he said: “There are currently 850,000 people in the UK with some form of dementia. That’s going to grow to around 2 million by 2050, so it’s the most pressing health concern we have.
“It affects so many people, so we have to get it exactly right.”