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Meera Syal bakes with grandmother to raise awareness of early onset dementia

Meera Syal and Dianne Gallimore (Alzheimer’s Society)
Meera Syal and Dianne Gallimore (Alzheimer’s Society)

Goodness Gracious Me star Meera Syal has teamed up with a grandmother with early onset dementia to bake cakes to raise awareness of the illness.

The actress, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, baked cupcakes with Dianne Gallimore, 63, who was diagnosed four years ago.

The duo appear in a film made before the pandemic, where Ms Gallimore, from Stockport, discusses her experiences of living with dementia, her distress at having to leave her job as a Health Visitor and her experiences in learning how to live well with dementia with the right support.

Syal, who became an Alzheimer’s Society ambassador in 2013 after her father was diagnosed with dementia, said: “Dianne was fantastic and incredibly articulate about what it’s like to live with dementia – she is living proof that it’s not the end when you get diagnosed with dementia.

“She is surrounded by love, she’s having a fulfilling life, she’s still doing things that she loves and she’s getting so much out of it.

“My father was diagnosed with dementia in the summer of 2012. He passed away in September 2018.

Meera Syal
Goodness Gracious Me star Meera Syal (Ian West/PA)

“The support we received from Alzheimer’s Society was invaluable, so being able to help the charity that was a lifeline to my family has been very rewarding.

“It’s also an incredible way for me to remember my Dad – the more I get involved in the work of Alzheimer’s Society, the more determined I am to give it all I’ve got to make a difference.

“Hundreds of thousands of families in the UK are impacted by dementia, and I feel strongly that people shouldn’t face this alone or without the very best support – even more so over the last year, when we have seen so many people affected by dementia cut off from their routines, their hobbies and sadly even the people they love, with so many in a state of confusion about why life has been so different.”

The charity is encouraging people to get into the kitchen and do some baking for its Cupcake Day on June 17, to help raise funds to support the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK who have been left devastated by coronavirus.

Ms Gallimore said: “Meera and I had a great time baking our favourite cupcakes and it was a real honour talking to her about my journey with dementia.

“Over the past year, for me, and for many others with dementia, the isolation caused by lockdown has been tough to deal with – a loss of routine and a lack of social contact has had such an impact on those with my condition.

“But I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to form a bubble with our son Adam and his wife Lindsay.

“The support I have had from them has been lifesaving. It has also allowed me to see my grandchildren, which has been so therapeutic, and I feel blessed to have such a caring and understanding husband in George.

“Getting my diagnosis was very upsetting for myself, my husband George and the whole family.

“I must admit, I shed a few tears and became anxious and distressed. It’s the fear that you can’t operate how you used to be able to operate. You’re worried that people expect more of you.

“If I’m going out, I have to double check everything, make sure I know where I’m going, and the route. Otherwise, I get very anxious.

“But with the support of George and the family, I realised it wasn’t the end. It was something I had to face up to. I decided to focus on getting as much support as I could, take on board the diagnosis, and do everything in my power to help stop the disease progressing.

“It has been a journey, but over time, and with help from Alzheimer’s Society, I’ve come to embrace the situation. I’m determined to live a full and happy life. You can still have fun and not have a good memory.”

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