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David Cameron opens up to LBC about his mum's 'tragic' Alzheimer's diagnosis

28 March 2022, 07:46 | Updated: 28 March 2022, 08:28

By Sophie Barnett

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has shared his mum's battle with Alzheimer's in an exclusive interview with LBC, saying it's the family motto to "just get on with it".

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Mr Cameron, who has been President of Alzheimer's Research UK since January 2017, told LBC'S Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that his mother Mary was recently diagnosed with the disease.

He said Mary, 87, is "frustrated" as she struggles to remember things but has a strong support system around her.

He told Nick: "Luckily, we are a very strong, close-knit family. I’m one of four siblings and so we all try and do our bit and help.

"She’s also got lots of friends who have been amazing and drop in and see her all the time."

David Cameron and his mother Mary at Wimbledon in 2016
David Cameron and his mother Mary at Wimbledon in 2016. Picture: Getty

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He added that she "tries to say active".

The former Tory MP fondly recalled a conversation with his mother about Cheltenham Races, where they spoke about the event and whether she had backed any winners.

He was also asked by Nick what his disabled father Ian would have said to his mother after her Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Ian suffered with severe disabilities and died in September 2010 aged 77.

"He never thought of himself as disabled, he just sort of got on with it," Mr Cameron said.

"So that's the family motto?"

"That's the family motto," Mr Cameron replied.

"My mother is like that. She doesn't want anyone to make a fuss and she is just battling on. So I think that's probably what he'd say."

Mr Cameron made it a priority when he was PM to fight the disease, and now it has become painfully personal.

Almost a decade ago he launched a national dementia challenge, promising to tackle what he called a "quiet crisis" - a tragedy that "steals lives and tears at the hearts of families”.

He pledged to double research spending, boost awareness, increase diagnosis and transform social care, persuading G8 leaders to hold a dementia summit.

He challenged scientists around the world to find a cure by 2025, or at the very least a drug that could slow the disease.

Speaking to Nick about the disease, Mr Cameron spoke of the "period of darkness" his mother is experiencing from Alzheimer's - which will soon affect one million people in the UK.

"That’s the thing that everybody dreads," Mr Cameron said.

"Alzheimer's can accelerate very quickly, and suddenly you can’t remember your relatives, your friends, and what you’re doing. That’s why it is such a tragic disease."

He said that it's not only frustrating for people when they start to lose their memory, but it also affects "how you feel about life".

He said it's important we diagnose "better and earlier" so that we are more likely to find treatments for those affected and said he wants the "stigma" around the disease to end.

"At the moment we are finding out so late, that it’s almost like treating the cancer when the tumour is the size of a tennis ball," he explained.

"Well that’s hopeless - you’ve got to get there earlier."

He added that Britain "can lead on this, just like they did with Covid", as he urged the Government to step up.

In 2012 fewer than 800,000 people in the UK lived with dementia. Now there are close to a million.