Paul’s relationship with Eileen and Lesley. A story interspersed with the arrival of Robert Vaughn as Milton, the drama of Carla and Peter sneaking around, Frank’s trial and the fallout of Tracy’s trickery. But it was there, in bits and pieces, growing all the time. Just like Alzheimer’s does.
Paul has put Lesley in a nursing home for two weeks’ respite care. He is free to stay with Eileen, and she has decided to not worry about his marital status for now. Through the week it developed with Eileen’s family and community putting their oar in. Jason accepted his mother’s friendship with Paul and apologized to them both. But it was a different story when he realized Paul had spent the night with her. Eileen decided to go public and that didn’t sit well with Norris or Julie. Eileen had crossed the line, Julie said.
The story they are telling is so very important, one Paul has explained well. With Lesley in a nursing home, he feels guilt about leaving her to others, relief at not having to worry about her every second of every day, and guilt at feeling relief.
Eileen has said the right things: that he needs a break and he’s not abandoning Lesley. It’s easier for her to say that, especially without the reality of Lesley’s presence, than it is for him to accept it. What will it be like when Lesley returns home from the nursing home and Eileen’s pretend world goes back to Paul’s ‘normal’?
When this story started a few months, I was impressed that Corrie would tackle the issue. It was one, I thought, that needed telling. People in the real world, caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, need to know that they are not invisible, that someone sees how hard what they’re doing is on them. We saw Alzheimer’s with Mike Baldwin, but that was told more from his point of view. Well-done and powerful it was, about a character we had known for many years. This one is different: Paul and Lesley are new with this storyline being their entry to the show. We haven’t shared their backstory as we had with Mike. The emphasis here is on the caregiver more than the disease. That’s what I like about it, showing the ravages of Alzheimer’s for the person who has it but also showing how it can ravage his or her loved ones.
At the beginning, Eileen pushed Paul away. Alzheimer’s or no, she’s your wife, begone and shame on you. The honourable response, yes. But one that doesn’t take him into account. She came to see that, that he is more than Lesley’s caregiver and that he needs something in his life outside that role. And that having another life doesn’t detract from his love of Lesley.
But there is another aspect of it. At the time it aired in the UK, there was a call to stop or change the story. A petition was started by a daughter of a woman just starting on the road of Alzheimer’s. Seeing what was happening on screen greatly upset the woman with Alzheimer’s – the fear that it might happen to her too, that those she loved might find other lives and loves while she was still alive.
Turning the tv to a different show isn’t an option, the petitioner explained. Routine and familiarity is extremely important for people with Alzheimer’s. If the routine includes Coronation Street, well, what are you going to do when the story hits too close to home? A difficult situation for Coronation Street: an important topic with two very painful sides to it.