Christopher Eccleston opens up about father’s dementia battle

ICONINSIDER — Christopher Eccleston has opened up about his father’s heartbreaking battle with dementia.
Joseph Eccleston passed away in 2012, 12 years after he was diagnosed with vascular dementia and former ‘Doctor Who’ star Christopher admitted the disease had affected his entire family with Joseph even once throwing his son out of the house on Christmas Day when he didn’t know who he was.
Christopher, 53, told the Manchester Evening News: “My father, Joseph Ronald, Eccleston, Ronnie Ecc, as he was called, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2000. Once he had been diagnosed we realised he had been exhibiting symptoms since 1997. So he lived with dementia for 15 years. My mum cared for him for 14 of those years, so I have firsthand experience of family members suffering the disease. Suffering is not a word that all people with dementia like – they prefer to say they are living with it.
“My dad’s dementia started with problems with short-term memory, He became obsessed for instance with the length of the grass at my house. He used to come and tell me that we needed to cut the hedges. He would say that again and again in a loop, and I used to snap at him because at the time I did not understand dementia. He would forget season tickets when we went to the game at Old Trafford.
“My father threw me out of his home on Christmas Day, which upset my mother, Elsie, deeply. He didn’t know who I was. He felt I was on his territory. I made him paranoid. I made him afraid, so he basically got me out of the house, what I mean is, I understood I needed to leave, so he could be more comfortable. My mum was very upset by that and I had to gently say to my mum ‘look that wasn’t my dad. My dad would never throw me out of his house, that was his condition’.”
Christopher admitted it was devastating to see his father try to cope with his debilitating illness.
He said: “The most traumatic experience is when people with dementia know they are ill. I saw my father pass through that and fight it with all his will. Once he was at a party, at my brother’s house, and knocked over a cup of tea. My brother said it was fine, but my father’s embarrassment and anxiety escalated to the point where he was on his knees, repeating: ‘What’s happening to me, what’s happening to me? I am Ronnie Eccleston.’ It was devastating.”

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