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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 13:28 GMT
Singer Melly has early dementia
George Melly
Melly has peformed for many decades
Colourful veteran jazz singer George Melly is one of the growing numbers of people in the UK with dementia, his wife has revealed.

Diana Melly told the BBC the singer was in the early stages of the condition - but it had not stopped him performing.

She said the illness had made her husband quite impatient, and obsessed about things.

She told BBC News 24: "I first noticed about two years ago, that his memory was really pretty awful."

She added: "He's always been, as it were, the absent minded professor, so a lot of it was not easy to spot, because he's never been able to change a light bulb or do anything that most of us could do.

"But his memory just got very bad."

Mrs Melly was speaking as a new report warned that the number of people with dementia in the UK could top 1.7 million by the year 2051.

She said her husband was absolutely fine when on stage, and had not trouble remembering the words of songs.

Nursing support

She said they had the support of Admiral Nurses - who work with family carers to help people with dementia - and would be all right.

However, she added: "But most people aren't."

She also admitted that helping her husband had left her "quite stressed".

"I'm always awake now between three and five in the morning, it's always two hours in the night when I can't sleep."

The singer sparked health fears when he collapsed on stage last month.

The 80-year-old was performing with Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen at the Old Market in Hove, East Sussex, when he suddenly fell ill.

He was kept overnight in the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton suffering from suspected dehydration.

The Liverpool-born entertainer and writer is known to have health problems including emphysema and lung cancer.

Singer Melly collapses on stage
26 Jan 07 |  Entertainment

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