THE POWERFUL dementia storyline dominating TV’s Emmerdale this week highlights the cruel impact of this disease on a man of working age and his young family.

The Yorkshire soap has been praised by people with dementia and their families, and organisations supporting them, for its accurate, sensitive handling of the complex condition.

What has made it particularly effective is that producers allowed the story to develop over two years. Viewers were initially shocked when village vicar Ashley Thomas was diagnosed with vascular dementia, following a stroke, and have followed the progression of his illness and its effect on his wife, children, father and friends.

Illness and social issues are often tackled by TV dramas in a simplistic way; introduced and dispensed with in a matter of weeks. Emmerdale’s series producer Iain MacLeod took a different approach with Ashley’s story, letting it breathe over a longer period of time. In doing so, the programme has put the spotlight on early onset dementia - showing that the condition is not confined to the ageing process.

As Kathryn Smith, the Alzheimer’s Society’s director of operations, says, 50,000 people in the UK have dementia at a younger age, and with that comes a whole different set of issues.

She said the charity has seen an “incredible response” to Ashley’s storyline. Since a key aim of the Alzheimer’s Society is to raise awareness of dementia in all its forms, the producers, writers and cast of Emmerdale should be very proud of their role in this.