“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 Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s, 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 father’s 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.”
Jones’s family revealed his condition to the public six months ago, and at last year’s 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”.