Bill Steel: Broadcaster's son tells of pressure of being sole carer

By Sharon Barbour
BBC Look North

Published
Image caption,
Bill Steel worked in TV and radio for decades

The son of broadcaster and actor Bill Steel has told how the pressure of being his sole carer pushed him to the brink of despair.

Mr Steel, 82, has Alzheimer's Disease and is receiving end-of-life care.

Christian Steel, 45, tried to take his own life after his mum Isabel died suddenly from Covid and he struggled caring for his terminally ill father.

"I'd lost my best friend in my mum and I was watching my dad die. I thought 'I can't deal with this'," he said.

Bill Steel played Bernard McKenna in Coronation Street in 1997 and was a presenter for Tyne Tees Television before becoming an announcer. He also voiced more than 20,000 advertisements.

Christian lost his mum on his birthday which led to his suicide attempt and him being taken to hospital.

But the comedian said that when he considered the responsibility of being his father's sole carer he realised he "had to get back".

Image caption,
Christian Steel said caring for his father had brought them very close

"I am closer than I have ever been with him and I would fight to the death for him, I love him," he said.

Bill, who lives in Newcastle, said having the disease has led to him wanting to do what he could to help others.

"I am certainly interested in what other people are doing to help with the disease. I think once you get it you have got to do something about it," he said.

He also thanked people for all their support over the years, describing his life as "a good ride".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bill Steel with comedian Ken Dodd in 1981

Social care covers areas like care homes and home-care services but often the care of a dementia patient falls to family.

Leading social care organisations warn they are facing a cliff edge because of funding.

Bill and Christian are supported by the Alzheimer's Society, which wants the government to commit to a "clear, budgeted plan" for reform.

Its head of services, Judith King, said: "People affected by dementia need help and support urgently now because the impact of the pandemic has only made a very difficult situation worse."

In his first speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson said he would "fix the crisis in social care once and for all".

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We recognise the vital role all unpaid carers play and the difficulties the pandemic has placed on those caring for family, relatives and their loved ones.

"Our focus on supporting carers during the pandemic has included funding charities supporting carers, tailored guidance, actions to help carers self-identify and ongoing work to help carers access day care services, respite, and the support they need.

"The government is committed to sustainable improvement of the adult social care system and will bring forward plans for reform in 2021."

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