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Pals make touching programme about living with Alzheimer’s Disease

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A FORMER care worker with Alzheimer’s Disease tracked down an old school pal who’s a famous TV director to make a touching documentary programme to prove there is life after dementia.

Mother-of-three and grandmother-of-five Eirlys Smith, 59, from Menai Bridge, on Anglesey, lost touch with Tim Lyn, 58, who now lives in Llansteffan, near Carmarthen, nearly 50 years ago but she found him again on Facebook.

The result is a “hugely emotional and often hilarious rollercoaster of a programme”, Eirlys, Dementia a Tim (Eirlys, Dementia and Tim), made by Caernarfon-based television production company Cwmni Da which will be shown on S4C at 9pm on Sunday, January 26.

As part of the programme, they recreated a quirky and uplifting music video to a song by the Australian singer, Tones and I, which topped the charts in 30 different countries last year.

In the original video two friends come to the rescue of an old man sat in a chair at home and ends up with them enjoying a dance party on a golf course.

Eirlys’s version, also starring her family and friends, starts with her rising out of a hospital bed and sees her, clad in leathers, riding off into the sunset as the pillion passenger on the back of a high-powered motorbike.

Before making the documentary, the duo had last seen each other when they were in primary school together in Menai Bridge between 1968 and 1970.

Eirlys was diagnosed with early onset dementia just before Christmas in 2018 and she made contact with Tim in January last year.

He had gone on to become an actor and an award-winning director who has made some of the most popular and acclaimed dramas on S4C, including Tydi Coleg yn Gret? (Isn’t College Great?), Eldra, and Fondue, Rhyw a Deinosors (Fondue, Sex and Dinosaurs).

The message she wrote to Tim via Facebook in January last year was blunt and to the point.

Tongue in cheek, she asked him whether he wanted to follow her journey with dementia until she became “doolally”.

At first, according to Tim, he struggled to remember Eirlys but the request particularly resonated with him because his own father, David Lyn, one of Wales’s most eminent actors and directors who passed away aged 85 in 2012, had also been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The documentary highlights the challenges Eirlys faces day-to-day and how she is overcoming them.

Making the programme was an emotional experience for Tim because it brought back memories of his father whose career meant the family lived a nomadic life based wherever he was working.

David Lyn was the artistic director of Theatr yr Ymylon in Bangor when Tim was at school with Eirlys and he was instrumental in the development in Welsh language theatre in Wales.

Tim said: “My father was in a similar situation, and we buried him, and it broke up our family totally because he was the one person who kept us all together. I think Eirlys is the rock in her family.

“I was very close to my dad growing up and I went on to work with him so it was very tough when he got diagnosed with early onset dementia because he changed and became very difficult. My family is still suffering because of my father’s illness.

“When Eirlys got in touch on Facebook we hadn’t spoken for around 50 years. She was very anxious before filming, but she became a different person during it.

“I think filming the documentary was an empowering experience for her.”

Eirlys said: “The main message I want people to get from the documentary is that there is life after dementia, and I plan to live it while I still can because there is good in everything.

“It took me time to get over the shock after I had the diagnosis. Then I started to accept it, because I can’t change it. I just have to do the best I can with the cards that I’ve been dealt. I still have difficult days, but I’m not going to just sit in the corner and wait to die

“My mum had dementia, and I’ve also worked with people with dementia so I know what’s coming down the tracks.

“My memory is unreliable on a day-to-day basis, so if I want something upstairs, I can go up and down the stairs 10 or 20 times. If I am going up to get my shoes, I have to keep repeating the word ‘shoes, to myself, or I will have forgotten what I want by the time I get there.

“I also used to work on a supermarket checkout and I would have to remember all the different prices and I didn’t have a problem with it. You had to remember the changes in the prices and I didn’t have a problem.

“My short term memory is awful but I remember more from a long time ago, including my school days.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m a failure. I get lost in my own neighbourhood, the place I grew up.

“I have to try to get out or I would just be a recluse, on my own in the house, and that’s not healthy for anyone. I’m scared of not knowing where I am.

“I wanted to do the documentary with Tim to see if I could rekindle happy memories from when we were kids. I also want to film something that shows that Alzheimer’s isn’t the end of the world, and that my life hasn’t come to an end. I don’t need to sit in a corner with a blanket over my knees.

“Filming the video was fantastic, an amazing feeling. I never thought I would be on the back of a motorbike ever again. I absolutely loved it.”

Producer Sion Aaron, from Cwmni Da, said: “We are massively indebted to Eirlys and Tim for making what is a hugely emotional rollercoaster of a programme that’s peppered with pathos and hilarity in equal measure.

“It has given us a much better understanding of what it means to live with dementia which is very important because it’s estimated that one in three of us will develop the condition.”

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Work underway to tackle ash dieback disease

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WORK is underway in Carmarthenshire to tackle a serious fungal disease which is affecting ash trees across the country.

It is estimated that 90% of ash trees could die from ash dieback disease for which there is currently no known treatment.

The fungus infects the leaves and spreads through to the branches, causing the tree to eventually die. Dead branches and the trunk of the tree can become very brittle causing it to fall, posing a serious risk to both people and property.

The council is taking a risk-based approach to tackling the issue and ash trees along all Class 1 and 2 roads, the county’s busiest roads which make up 17% of the total highway network, have been surveyed.

Trees showing at least 50% of ash dieback in their crowns and which pose a risk to road users will have to be felled. A total of 2,512 trees have been identified.

Felling work will start later this month in Llanelli along the A4138 between Trostre and Llangennech where 215 trees along the stretch will be felled. This is the busiest road in the county for which the council is responsible.

The works are scheduled to start at Penprys roundabout on Wednesday, February 26 and are expected to take eight days to complete with the final phase taking place at the Talyclun junction on Sunday, March 1. The majority of works will be carried out from the cycle path to maintain traffic flow as much as possible and between 9am and 3pm to avoid rush hours.

The council will be writing to private landowners with trees alongside Class 1 and 2 roads offering guidance and advice on how to deal with ash dieback.

Surveys are also being carried out on ash trees on other council-owned land such as schools, car parks, council housing areas, safe routes and cycle paths. Surveys on ash trees alongside Class 3 and 4 roads will follow.

Executive Board Member for the Environment Cllr Hazel Evans said: “This is a very sad situation, but unfortunately we have no choice but to remove the trees if they have the disease and are in a location which poses a risk to public safety. We will try to minimise the disruption to road users as much as possible.

“It is a serious problem for both councils and other landowners across the UK and a lot of work is being carried out. It is important we raise awareness of the disease, particularly with landowners to offer guidance and advice, as well as the public in general.

“There will be a need for new trees to be planted to compensate for the loss of ash trees in the county, and we will be actively seeking funding to support re-planting projects.”

Symptoms of ash dieback disease are usually first apparent in the crown of the tree, with leaves turning black and falling in late summer rather than autumn, there can also be visible lesions above and below the point where the branches join the trunk of the tree.

For further information including frequently asked questions and advice please visit the website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/ashdieback

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Whitland HWRC amongst those withdrawn from budget saving plans

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Executive Board has withdrawn proposals to close Whitland Household Waste Recycling Centre from its budget – alongside a number of others – following a comprehensive budget consultation.

The council had asked for public feedback on several suggestions as it looked at ways to save £16.5million over the next three years.

After reviewing that feedback, Executive Board has today (February 24, 2020) voted to withdraw the suggested closure of the recycling centre, as well as proposals to reduce public toilet provision.

In addition, they will no longer look to reduce the budget for youth support services and will not implement a proposed increase to cemetery charges.

Proposed efficiencies in budgets for education around additional learning needs will be deferred for at least three years, as will proposals for an administration fee for residential care placements.

In respect of leisure services, instead of increasing charges, additional income will now be met through increased usage of facilities.

Almost £12million has been added to the council’s budget to support inflationary related pressures, and a further £7.4million for new pressures including social care, waste and additional learning needs. The schools’ delegated budget has been given significant support with their budget increasing by £10.1million, providing them with the same spending power as they have in current year.

Funding has also been added to the budgets for social services to invest in workforce, and to the highways budget to improve roads.

Following these adjustments, the budget being put to Full Council for final decision in March will propose a Council Tax increase of 4.89 per cent for the coming year.

Cllr David Jenkins, Executive Board Member for Resources, said that a better than expected settlement from Welsh Government – an increase of 4.4 per cent – has allowed some flexibility in this year’s budget, but highlighted that many challenges remain.

“Welsh Government’s recognition of the unprecedented level of inflationary and unavoidable pressures facing local authorities does not detract from the fact that savings are still required, despite the welcome funding increase,” he said.

More than 2,000 people responded to the council’s budget consultation, offering valuable feedback on 14 separate proposals.

Executive Board reiterated that these proposals were put forward to get a measure of the public’s opinion, and that no decisions were made before reviewing their feedback.

Cllr Jenkins added: “I would like to express my thanks to all who took part in the consultation or responded to the surveys.

“One thing that is generally clear from those who took part in the consultation is that they do appreciate that difficult choices need to be made.

“I, as portfolio member for resources, and member colleagues, have again really tried to listen both to the public and fellow members’ concerns and respond accordingly.”

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More investment on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway

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The final stage of recovery works to repair damage caused by Storm Callum on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway.

A highly complex programme of phased works has already been completed in one of the worst hit areas at Cwmduad, when a landslide tragically claimed the life of a young man.

Repairs as a result of the storm have also been carried out at Bronwydd.

Some 20 miles of the A484 was affected by the extreme weather conditions in Carmarthenshire in October 2018 stretching from Carmarthen to Cenarth.

Phase two of the support works have now started at other affected areas at Henallt Bends, Pante South, Llwyfan Cerrig Station, Foelfach, Tirgwili/Rock and Fountain, Mile End, Nantclawdd, the A484/A475 junction, Gelligatti before finishing at Flatwood in Cenarth.

Works will include felling damaged trees, providing foundations for new safety barriers, stabilising embankments and installing new highway drainage chambers.

Carmarthenshire Council secured funding from Welsh Government to carry out maintenance of the highway in response to detailed inspections following the storm.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “This has been a very complex operation covering over 20 miles and involving a number of agencies. Whilst the safety of the public is paramount, every effort will be made to ensure these essential works are carried out with as minimal disruption as possible until they have been completed. We understand that this has had a major impact on the local community and road users, and we would like to thank them for their patience and co-operation whilst these recovery and repair works are being carried out.”

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