Terry Jones: Ive got dementia. My frontal lobe has absconded
The actor, director and Monty Python star talks about how he is learning to live with his illness, with the help of close friend Michael Palin
Terry Jones first exhibited signs that all was not well with his health in July 2014. He and his close friend Michael Palin were performing with the rest of the surviving Monty Pythons Flying Circus troupe in a show of sketches and songs, Monty Python live (mostly) at the O2 in London.
Terry was always very good at remembering lines, recalled Palin last week. But this time he had real problems, and in the end he had to use a teleprompter. That was a first for him. I realised then that something more serious than memory lapses was affecting him.
Jones, now 75, later passed standard tests designed to pinpoint people who have Alzheimers disease. His speech continued to deteriorate nevertheless. He said less and less at dinner parties, when he used to love to lead conversations, said his daughter Sally.
Eventually, in September 2015, Jones was diagnosed as having frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a condition that affects the front and sides of the brain, where language and social control centres are based. When cells there die off, people lose their ability to communicate, and their behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and impulsive. Unlike Alzheimers, there is no loss of reasoning or orientation. However, planning, decision making and speech are affected, and patients often seem less caring or concerned about their family and friends.
Sally recalls that even though her fathers speech was faltering, he was still initially able to outline his plans and thoughts by email. However, the emails slowly became more and more jumbled, and by autumn last year he had to give up, she said. For someone who lived by words and discussions this was tragic.
Joness family revealed his condition to the public six months ago, and at last years Bafta Cymru ceremony in October, his son Bill had to help his father collect his award for outstanding contribution to television and film. The only words that Jones was able to utter were to tell his audience to quieten down.