Fiona Phillips: I can’t just lie down and accept Alzheimer’s diagnosis

She is involved in clinical trials to help combat the illness.

Laura Harding
Thursday 06 July 2023 09:51 BST
Fiona Phillips revealed this week she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year (Ian West/PA)
Fiona Phillips revealed this week she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

Fiona Phillips has said she hopes her involvement in clinical trials will be a step towards defeating Alzheimer’s, saying: “I can’t just lie down and accept it.”

The broadcaster, 62, previously said she thought she was experiencing menopause symptoms when she first started experiencing “brain fog and anxiety” but last year she was diagnosed with the disease.

She now receives three daily drug injections as part of trials at University College Hospital in London which could revolutionise treatments for people with Alzheimer’s.

The former GMTV presenter told the Daily Mirror that while doctors have explained her condition is not hereditary, she is predisposed to it due to her family history – her parents, grandparents and uncle have all had the illness.

Her mother Amy was first affected by Alzheimer’s in her 50s and died in 2006, aged 74, while her father got it before his wife died.

Phillips, who is mother to sons, Nat, 24, and Mackenzie, 21, told the paper: “This disease has already taken a big chunk out of my life.

“My mum got it very badly. I was living in London and my parents were in Wales. Every weekend I’d put the boys in the back of the car and bomb down in my little car to see Mum.

“She became very scared and would cry all the time and go out and get lost.

“That’s terrible if you get lost and can’t make yourself known, and are frightened and crying. That happens to a lot of people.”

She added: “I think my dad got it towards the end of Mum’s life and it actually made him very funny.

“When me and my brothers were kids he was always strict. But when he fell ill with dementia he became really warm and lovely, laughing at everything.”

Phillips’ husband, This Morning editor Martin Frizell, said he has “absolutely” ramped up his efforts to take care of her since she was diagnosed.

Phillips was recently scammed by a phone fraudster who siphoned thousands of pounds out of her bank account.

The bank refunded the money but it showed her increased vulnerability.

Frizell told the paper: “I didn’t ever have to worry about Fiona before, and now I do. What is she doing all day while I’m at work? What is she doing in the evening if I’m out? What has she eaten?”

However, Phillips said she is “very positive” about the trials she is taking part in, adding: “I have to be. I want to try to make things better for people in the future. I now have to talk about it openly.

“I have been reluctant as I think people look at you in a different way if they think you have Alzheimer’s.

“Attitudes change. People used to refer to cancer as The Big C in hushed tones but that has gone – maybe it can be the same for Alzheimer’s.

“Most of all we have to find a cure or way of managing this terrible disease because it is crippling people and crippling the health service. Care homes are full of people with it.”

She hopes that playing her part in clinical trials will be a step towards defeating the illness which has caused her family so much pain.

She said: “That’s why I want to do the trials.

“I can’t just lie down and accept it.

“I have already been through so much of it. I have to do something to help end this bloody awful disease.”

Phillips anchored GMTV for more than a decade and competed on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2005.

In the UK, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain function, according to the NHS website.

Phillips has been a long campaigner for Alzheimer’s awareness and in 2012 took part in a Department of Health and Social Care campaign to encourage families to have a difficult conversation with their loved ones about the condition and seek help.

Her 2009 Channel 4 documentary Dispatches: Mum, Dad, Alzheimer’s And Me also gave an insight into her acting as a carer for her family.

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