Emmerdale to air dementia special

'Emmerdale' are to air a special episode dedicated to giving an insight into living with dementia in December with John Middleton's character Ashley Thomas, who was diagnosed with the condition last year, to play a major role

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John Middleton

John Middleton

'Emmerdale' will air a special episode to give viewers an insight into living with dementia.

Soap bosses have teamed up with the Alzheimer's Society and MHA (Methodist Homes) to focus a 30-minute show from the perspective of vicar Ashley Thomas (John Middleton), who is suffering from the mental disorder, to raise awareness of the condition this December.

Iain MacLeod, Emmerdale's series producer, said: "People living with dementia face challenges most of us can barely imagine. So, I took it as a challenge to help people picture this experience - to put them inside the mind of someone living with this condition.

"With this chapter of Ashley's story, we set out to give people an insight into how ordinary, day-to-day experiences can become disorientating and distressing when refracted through the lens of dementia.

"Catching a bus, the apparently simple act of buying something in a shop, holding a conversation - all of these become tasks of Herculean scale.

"By telling the episode solely from Ashley's point of view and seeing things the way he sees them, I hope we're showing a side of dementia that is seldom represented on television."

The episode will see Ashley, who was diagnosed with stroke-related early onset vascular dementia last year, leave hospital and make his way onto the streets alone.

While it is not known exactly what will happen to him, it is set to be a tear-jerker involving Ashley and wife Laurel (Charlotte Bellamy).

Iain added: "At its core, though, this has always been a love story between Ashley and his wife Laurel, and this episode is a heart-breaking landmark in the evolution of their relationship."

Kathryn Smith, director of operations at Alzheimer's Society, said: "We are incredibly moved that 'Emmerdale' will be filming an episode dedicated to showing the audience the world from Ashley's point of view.

"Storylines like this can help people raise awareness of dementia and help them to understand how dementia can impact a person's ability to think, communicate, process new information and break down the stigma that is still associated with the disease."

This comes just weeks after John was involved in the "biggest stunt in soap history" last month when Ashley was in a horrific car crash involving a number of the villagers.

The incident was caused by Emma Barton (Gillian Kearney) who pushed her husband James Barton (Bill Ward) to his death.

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