Made in Chelsea's Gareth Locke opens up about mother's dementia as care costs predicted to increase

Gareth Locke Credit: PA

He is normally seen sharing details of his life on the reality TV show 'Made in Chelsea', but Gareth Locke has opened up to ITV News about the pain of watching his mother Margaret live with dementia for 17 years.

In an interview for Dementia Action Week, he questioned whether or not he remembers how she used to be.

I am shown into the house Gareth Locke shares with his husband Ollie in the famously affluent area of Chelsea, where we spend a morning chatting about his mother, Margaret.

When he was just a teenager she was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 54.

Gareth Locke is emotional as he speaks about his mother's dementia. Credit: ITV News

Gareth speaks with, at times, heartbreaking honesty about the enduring grief and loss caused by his mother's disease: "My mum used be top career woman, did absolutely everything for my family, was amazing.

"One of the most incredible women. Now, 17 years later on, she's in a care home. Do you know what the absolute killer is?

"You're in the kind of in the car and you want to call them and then I can't do that and that's the stabbing thing and it brings it all home that this massive piece in your life is gone.

"You're almost like, can you remember the person they used to be? It's incredibly upsetting and I do miss her every day."

Gareth Locke's mother is now in a care home and he questions if he can remember how she was before her diagnosis. Credit: Family photograph

As he speaks it makes me think back to the change in the relationship with my own mother around when I was a teenager, how much I valued being able to chat on the same level as my parents.

It is a relationship I realise I am fortunate to still have with my mother as Gareth tells me how much he misses having the same experience now.

Gareth has agreed to this interview in his role as an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society, and it coincides with Dementia Action Week. The charity has released the results of one of the largest UK studies ever carried out into the economic impact of dementia.

It revealed that people living with dementia and their families are shouldering 63% of all dementia costs and, that as the disease progresses, total costs increase significantly - rising from £29,000 per year for mild dementia to £81,000 for severe dementia.

The majority of costs come from social care (40%) and unpaid care (50%). The charity says the lack of an early diagnosis means that families are left to pick up the pieces and results in catastrophic costs further down the line.

Kate Lee, Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive, said: “One in three people born today will develop dementia.

"It’s the biggest health and care issue of our time, yet it isn’t the priority it should be amongst decision-makers.

"We wouldn’t accept this for any other terminal disease, we shouldn’t accept this for dementia. Now is the time to prioritise dementia, and that starts with getting more people diagnosed."

For Gareth, treasured photographs are a reminder of happier times with his parents. Credit: Family photograph

It was getting a diagnosis that helped Gareth and his family understand changes they had seen in his mother:

"There were subtle differences at home. My mum would get very frustrated. She'd get very confused, struggle doing a task or something quite simple.

"That is there for like two years before she got a diagnosis and it was only because we had someone who had been through it pushed us to get the diagnosis that we actually knew what was going on, otherwise, we wouldn't have had the medication, wouldn't have had the awareness."

We put those concerns about access to an early diagnosis to the government and in response a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told us: “Timely diagnosis of dementia is vital, which is why we’re working to identify and treat more people and provide potential new treatments as they become available. We’re also doubling funding for dementia research to £160 million a year by the end of 2024/25, and dementia is one of six major conditions included in our upcoming Major Conditions Strategy.”

Gareth Locke at home with his husband Ollie and twin children. Credit: ITV News

Today, Gareth and his husband Ollie have their hands full with their nine month old twins. Like any new parents they are embracing the joy and chaos of having new babies at home, but it is something Gareth wishes his mother could play a fuller part in as their grandmother.

Behind the fizz of the bottles of wine which you so often see on 'Made in Chelsea', Gareth is using his platform to tell people about what has happened to his mother, to raise awareness of how the disease steals away loved ones, and to reassure people that they are not going through this alone.

Watch James Webster's full report including more from his interview with Gareth Locke and the reaction of families whose loved ones are also living with dementia to seeing his interview

If you are worried about yourself, or someone close to you, then there is a symptom checker available on the Alzheimer’s Society website. You can also call the charity's Dementia Support Line on 0333 150 3456.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…