Media Spotlight Emmerdale: The importance of dementia awareness

July 15th, 2016 by The Mag Editors in Features

Soap fans can’t have failed to notice Emmerdale’s emotional storyline about character, Ashley’s, dementia diagnosis, and the impact it has had on relationships with friends and family. So why has Emmerdale chosen to tell this story? Our guest editors comment on the important role that soaps play in highlighting such issues.

Sheila: There are lots of people out there who might not enjoy watching documentaries, but who do watch soaps, so it’s a good way of getting messages to them.

Joan: In a soap you actually see the person with the illness dealing with it day to day. You get involved in the story and you can see how the character is behaving. My father had dementia and I had no idea what was happening at the time. But if I had seen a soap storyline like this, I might have been better prepared to deal with it.”

Wendy: In Emmerdale, you can see the community rallying round to help Ashley and keep him safe and ensure he isn’t in any danger, for example Jimmy who has been looking after him. This will show others how they can help people with dementia.

Anne: When Ashley took his son to the hospital, he bumped into his wife, Laurel, while walking around. He instantly forgot about his son. This shows people how quickly things can change for those living with dementia, something can be forgotten so quickly.

Anne: Years ago, people were just classed as ‘mad’ and put away into asylums. But these days we talk more openly about dementia as a community, and stories such as this keep us talking.

Liam Johnson - Programme Researcher Emmerdale

"Working on Ashley's dementia storyline has been eye-opening, on both a factual and emotional basis. We strive to get the story both entertaining and factual, and by working with organisations, experts, and individuals affected by dementia we've created a storyline that hopefully will ring true with many of our viewers at home.

“Dementia is only going to become more prevalent, and it's important we represent matters such as these. Over the course of the research I've learnt that dementia is about the person and I think, as a soap opera, telling stories about people is what we do best."

Sally Parsons, Client Services Director – North, Home Group

“At Home Group we are increasingly working with more people who are suffering the effects of dementia.  The tiniest changes and adjustments can make a huge difference to the quality of life that they and their families experience.  The design of our buildings and environment, the way we support people individually and help them to keep their connections in the community going all contribute to a better experience of their illness.  

“In our older people’s services in particular, but also in our wider group of colleagues, we are working to increase awareness and expertise so that we can help in an informed and knowledgeable way to prevent our clients and customers from becoming isolated, frightened confused and anxious.”

To find out more about supporting people with dementia, visit