Everyone needs a bit of Peggy in them. 83-years-old and still enjoying life like a teenager, the story of this grandmother’s struggle against dementia made a tragically comic tale about getting old and the increasing number of people caring for relatives in their own homes.
Everyone needs a bit of Peggy in them.
83-years-old and still enjoying life like a teenager, the story of this grandmother’s struggle against dementia made a tragically comic tale about getting old and the increasing number of people caring for relatives in their own homes.
And you can’t help but love the star of the show. Peggy sings out-of-tune, will happily talk to anybody about anything and tells anecdotes that don’t go anywhere by the dozen.
She once met Ken Livingstone, you know. Well, practically assaulted him by the sounds of it. She saw him in a crowd, grabbed him by his blue satin tie and, well, it sort of tailed off after that.
An old-fashioned Londoner, Peggy still goes out dancing, meets up with her man-friend Bill and frequently doesn’t come home until after dark.
All this is driving her daughter Sue mad. You see Peggy is now at that age where everybody speaks to you as though they’re trying to order a coffee in a bar on the continent – very slowly and very loudly.
She couldn’t survive in a home, her family say, but she can’t look after herself either so they’re all moving to Essex to try and live together while they build her an annex out-back for her to live as independently as possible.
Which is handy because Peggy’s free-spirit personality means that she’s always off out somewhere. Like a rebellious teenager, she’s says she’ll be back by half-two and doesn’t return until the streetlights come on.
Sue and her long-suffering husband Phil are worried sick about her.
They thought it was their time to enjoy themselves – the kids have left home, they’ve got some money in the bank and all they can do now is sit at home and wait for Peggy to come home from a night out dancing.
Sue nags and chastises her mother for the worry that she is causing, but as the film goes on you start to see more and more of the disease taking hold.
With the stress of living in each other’s pockets growing, Peggy becomes more and more confrontational with her family.
Her daughter explains that the dementia has affected her personality. She was always a character, she says, but she has gone from being a very fussy head of the household to resembling an angry teenager again.
She snaps and swears at Sue and Phil, struggles to maintain her personal hygiene and sits at the table with her fingers in her ears, ignoring her daughter as she tries to reason with her.
“Dementia patients wind you up,” Sue says.
“They criticise you, they test you – as a child can test you. But with a child you can say, ‘Sit down, shut up, you’re not getting your dinner if you don’t behave’ – how can you do that with your mother?”
The mother/daughter relationship has been reversed and it’s sad to watch this brilliant, loveable woman struggling to cope with the loss of her life as she knows it.
Which spawns the idea of the ‘Granny annex.’ Built in the back-garden, it offers Peggy the chance at some independence again while allowing Sue and Phil some time off – knowing that they are always close-by.
It’s a shame that this development comes so late in the documentary, as there is no time to see how this arrangement works out for the family.
Early signs suggest that it has potential though. “I couldn’t wish for a better daughter,” Peggy says as her family watch on, just happy that she’s happy.
We can only hope for a follow-up to this brilliant, yet terribly sad film to find out how it all worked out.