With Christmas fast approaching, it signals that time when we start to see the big budget, high-profile TV adverts for the usual brands, all trying to outdo each other. But this year sees a new advert that’s got everyone talking and a lot of us shedding a tear. I’m talking, of course, about Alzheimer’s Research UK’s clever and poignant animated ad where we see Santa living with Alzheimer’s disease, as the world carries on around him and eventually starts to forget him.
With Alzheimer’s disease now being so prominent in so many of our lives, this advert has struck a chord up and down the country. Watching Santa living with Alzheimer’s is a familiar and painful tale for people living with the disease themselves, people watching their family members or friends slowly slip away thanks to the illness, and for those of us left behind once their loved one has finally succumbed to dementia. For my own family it’s particularly poignant as we very sadly lost my mum to Alzheimer’s in March this year. She was only 59 and this will be our first Christmas without her.
My three children only ever knew their Nana with the disease. It was around the time my eldest, Joe, was born eight years ago that we started to notice something wasn’t right with Mum. A few years later at the age of only 53, Mum got the diagnosis we were all dreading – Alzheimer’s. The disease has unfortunately been a very unwanted but very present part of our lives ever since. It’s not played a small part either – it’s shaped the dynamics of our family and forced our children to learn about an illness that takes away a person they love in an extremely cruel way.
I have long believed that research, awareness and understanding are essential for us to one day find a cure or effective treatments for this disease, so I was delighted to hear Alzheimer’s Research UK had created a Christmas advert this year. Following on from their wonderful Share the Orange campaign, I was confident it would get people talking, understanding more about dementia and importantly helping to raise money to fight the disease.
Obviously this advert is aimed at adults, but children will inevitably see it. So what will they think about Santa having dementia? I’ve watched this advert with my eight-year-old, Joe, and his thoughts were that it was sad and not nice to see Santa so poorly, but he also astutely said that it shows that if Santa can get it, so can anyone.
We talked about how this is only an advert – Santa doesn’t actually have Alzheimer’s. He is, in fact, very busy in the North Pole getting all the presents made and sorted in time for Christmas. Children may need this reassurance so they don’t worry about Santa, but maybe the story in the advert can be used as a way of explaining what is happening to family members, neighbours or friends. Unfortunately many children will have experience of this illness, but may not fully understand it. This advert provides us with a powerful tool – it allows us to talk about a difficult subject, whilst harnessing and sharing with our children the positive and important message that research is key.
Children are extremely clever and astute. They are part of an exciting and dynamic world where medical advances are happening more and more. Maybe one day they will be one of the amazing doctors, scientists or researchers helping people and changing our world. Let’s encourage them to be like Freya, and believe that a cure lies in research. Let’s help them believe in their loved ones, like Freya does. This Christmas, let’s all believe in a future free of Alzheimer’s disease.