Carey Mulligan has been appointed the U.K.'s first global Dementia Friends Ambassador

By Phil Boucher
Updated August 16, 2016 04:30 PM
Credit: John Salangsang/Invision/AP

wants to make the world a better place for those who suffer from dementia.

The Suffragette star, whose grandmother Margaret Booth, 90, has suffered from dementia for 16 years, has been appointed as the U.K.’s first global Dementia Friends Ambassador.

In close collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Society, Mulligan, 31, will work to publicize the Dementia Friends initiative, which aims to transform the way people perceive, act and talk about the condition in everyday life.

“It empowers you to take away that fear that you feel when you’re in the street and you see someone who is maybe struggling a little bit,” Mulligan told the BBC. “Or someone in a shop who can’t figure out how much money they need to work out in change. To take away that fear of ‘Oh maybe I shouldn’t offer to help just in case they are fine.’ ”

Mulligan said she wants to help make people more empathetic to those with the disease.

“It puts you in the mindset of someone who has dementia and makes you see the world through their eyes,” she said.

Mulligan’s grandmother – or Nans, as she calls her – was first diagnosed with dementia when the actress was just a teenager. She said the former geography teacher now struggles to communicate and often doesn’t recognize her.

“Nans has had dementia now for about 16 years and so she is in a quite advanced stage,” explained Mulligan. “It has been at various stages confusing and saddening and it’s also given us the opportunity to meet really amazing people who dedicate their lives to working with people who suffer from dementia.

Because the disease is so close to her heart, Mulligan wants to reverse the global attitude toward dementia and start a wider discussion about how positive changes can be made.

“I get really frustrated by really casual references to people, and it happens all the time, where you’ll be having a conversation with someone who will refer to an elderly relative as someone who has ‘lost their marbles,’ ” she said. “It is these very casual phrases, but they are so often describing someone who has a condition and it’s just not treated in the way that other diseases are. So that has always sort of wound me up.

Through her new platform as a Dementia Friends Ambassador, Mulligan is optimistic about a more enlightened approach toward understanding dementia.

“I think there’s a natural fear. And I think that’s something that we should talk about more,” she said. “I think for such a long time it always felt like such a taboo subject, and I think that’s gradually changing.”