Being told your dad has Alzheimer’s disease is one of life’s real low points.
But when Lancashire man Simon McDermott got that diagnosis for his father Teddy, he came up with a novel idea for giving his father a temporary escape from the ravages of that cruel disease.
Simon decided to take an idea pioneered by America’s The Late Show host James Corden and use it as therapy for his dad.
Corden had a series of YouTube videos called Carpool Karaoke, where he and a celebrity guest, such as Michelle Obama or Stevie Wonder, drive down the highway singing along to a classic song and Simon thought using this idea with his dad might be worth a try, as 80-year-old Teddy loved singing, and in his younger days had been one of the famous Redcoat entertainers at Butlin’s budget family holiday camps.
So Simon decided to see if singing could bring his Dad’s normal outgoing personality back, even briefly.
‘For his birthday, I thought I’d take him to the recording studio, and then we just ended up driving around the Ribble Valley singing,’ Simon told Express.co.uk.
Teddy’s nickname is the Songaminute Man, as a tribute to how many songs he still remembers, despite Alzheimer’s robbing his short-term memory.
On the justgiving.com website, Simon explains the effect the car karaoke has had on Teddy.
‘In the last few years his memory has deteriorated a lot—often not recognising family and with many aggressive episodes. However, now when we’ve got him singing again, he’s back in the room. It’s these moments that we treasure,’ he wrote.
Simon then took his idea further and set up a dashboard camera to film the two of them singing along to ‘Quando Quando Quando’ and posted it on the internet, where it went viral, with more than 4.7 million views.
Simon, who works in digital marketing at Barnardo’s children’s charity, decided to use the car karaoke videos to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, explaining that his family had received help though some tough times from Alzheimer’s Society and its National Dementia Helpline.
‘I thought we’d raise maybe about £500 or £1000 at most. It’s crazy some of the donations that have been made and how many nice things people have been saying,’ he says.
To date, the videos have raised £100,000 for Alzheimer’s Society.
‘The plan is to share as much of Dad’s singing as we can, and hopefully help raise money to fund the work of the Alzheimer’s Society to go towards paying for a person at the end of the phone line to help other people like us,’ Simon posted on justgiving.com.
Helping Teddy is a family affair, with Simon paying tribute to his mother Linda.
‘She has been the rock in all this. I’m just the guy driving us round singing. We’d fall apart without her support.’
Teddy recently celebrated his 80th birthday.
‘My dad is the eldest of 14 so we had a big party for him. He’s a real character and he loves singing—he’s got a good voice!’ Simon told bbc.com.
The words of Psalm 47 could have been written for Simon and Teddy McDermott.
‘Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!’ (Psalm 47, verse 1).