FORMER Bradford City player Allan Gilliver appears in a TV documentary looking at how families cope with dementia.

Allan, 77, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2013. He lives at home in Allerton with his wife Chris, and is unable to dress or wash himself. "But he's still there," said Chris. "He's very non-communicative but every now and then he'll pick up a word and start singing. He still has his charisma, but he doesn't recognise people anymore. When he meets anyone he'll say 'Hiya lad', it's his way of coping. People think he's doing okay, but he isn't."

Chris and Allan, known as Gilly, are featured in Dementia & Us on BBC2 tonight at 9pm. The moving programme follows four families as they negotiate life with dementia. "They approached us through Pathways (a Bradford group supporting people with dementia and their families) and we talked about it with the family and decided we'd do it because people just don't know enough about dementia," said Chris. "It's not just about losing your keys or forgetting where you put your phone. It affects the whole body and personality. Gilly has been aggressive and I've had bruises.

"Dementia is a complex condition and you don't get a pack to deal with it. Nobody tells you how lonely it can be, or what it entails, or that you feel like a failure. We've learned things as we've gone along but it's been a struggle. It wasn't until last year, when I reached the end of my tether, that I discovered Admiral Nurses, who specialise in dementia care. People who are caring for loved ones with dementia often just struggle through.

"This programme is going to be used as a teaching tool, to help other carers. People need more support."

The programme-makers gave Chris a camera to film her and Allan at home in lockdown. "The family came round in all weathers to stand in the garden, our grandson blew us a kiss, but the isolation was tough. I ended up having a breakdown," she said. "We had a family conference, and decided to get some occasional respite care for Gilly. I want to keep him at home as long as I can, but the respite gives me some much-needed time for myself."

Chris now enjoys singing with the Altogether Now choir in Baildon. "I love it, it's so uplifting and I've made some great friends there," she said. "It's important for carers to look after themselves."

When his football career ended Allan, known as 'Mr Bradford City', worked at the club, in roles such as groundsman, safety officer and commercial manager. He retired in 2007, following a four-decade association with City. He and Chris believe his dementia was caused by heading the ball in his football career. "I scored a lot of goals heading the ball, we had heading practice every day," Allan told the T&A in 2015. "It hurt like hell; footballs were much heavier back then."

The couple have support from Dawn Astle, daughter of soccer star Jeff Astle, who died from a brain disease believed to have been caused from repeatedly heading footballs. The Jeff Astle Foundation raises awareness of brain injury in sport and offers support to those affected. "There is more awareness, but there's still a long way to go," said Chris.