Sean Connery was in ‘large discomfort’ before death due to ‘terrible illness’ – explainer

Diamonds Are Forever: Sean Connery stars in classic trailer

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Revealing more about the state of the actor’s health after releasing news he had passed away, Connery’s family said that he had been “ill for some time” and for the last two years of his life was in “very large discomfort”. Close friend of the star and former F1 driver Sir Jackie Stewart, lamented that it was a “sad sight” to see his friend struggling with “terrible illness” dementia. More recently, Connery’s widow Lady Micheline Roquebrune, who is 92 years of age, and witnessed first hand the “dreadful” impact the disease had on her husband pledged $1million to help find a cure for dementia.

“Having seen the dreadful impact dementia had on Sean, particularly towards the end of his life, our family feels privileged to support the vital research being undertaken,” Lady Roquebrune shared as she donated the large sum to charity Race Against Dementia in February 2022.

“We hope this gift will contribute to treatments to cure and prevent dementia, and in the meantime support those suffering from or caring for a person living with dementia.”

Sharing more about her husband’s personal experience with the progressive disease, Lady Roquebrune said that it was “no life for him” and his final wish was to “slip away without any fuss”.

She added the actor “was not able to express himself” in the period leading up to his death.

These comments from Connery came as a shock as the star’s cause of death on his death certificate was respiratory failure caused by pneumonia, old age, and an irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation in medical terms.

Having battled numerous ailments at a similar time, Sir Stewart added that he thought the star would have preferred to “slip away a wee bit earlier” as he “wasn’t well” but in the end the star was able to pass away peacefully in his sleep.

The charity Dementia UK explains that dementia is an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions that affect the brain. Each type of dementia stops a person’s brain cells (neurones) working properly in specific areas, affecting their ability to remember, think and speak.

Medical professionals tend to use the word dementia in order to describe common symptoms such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Problems with speech
  • Understanding.

Other potential symptoms of dementia can include problems managing behaviour, finding social situations difficult, hallucinations, and mood swings.

These symptoms are known as progressive, meaning that they get worse over time and can develop gradually. The disease can affect any person and at any age, but it is more common in people over the age of 65.

The charity notes that currently, there are over 200 subtypes of dementia. The most common are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain which damage the brain cells’ ability to transmit messages. One of the proteins involved is called amyloid, deposits of which form plaques around brain cells. The other protein is called tau, deposits of which form tangles within brain cells.

As brain cells become affected, there’s also a decrease in chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) involved in sending messages, or signals, between brain cells. Levels of one neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, are particularly low in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Vascular dementia is caused by problems in the supply of blood to the brain. Commonly due to strokes or ‘mini strokes’ called transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), these problems cause areas of cell damage in the brain.
Vascular damage can also take place in the smaller vessels of the brain (‘small vessel disease’) and symptoms may be more gradual. The symptoms of vascular dementia are often similar to Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory problems, disorientation and difficulty with communication.

Other common types of dementia such as Lewy body dementia, particularly affects movement and motor control. For example, an individual may struggle with walking, getting dressed and using cutlery. With this type of dementia, memory is less affected.

Regardless of the type of dementia an individual has, the NHS explains it is important that individuals receive a formal diagnosis. An accurate, timely diagnosis gives an individual the best chance to adjust, prepare and plan for the future, as well as access to treatments and support that may help.

Memory problems or mobility problems may also not always be caused by dementia, so getting checked by a medical professional will be able to rule out any of the following other causes:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Stress
  • Medicines
  • Alcohol or drugs
  • Other health problems – such as hormonal disturbances or nutritional deficiencies.

If diagnosed with dementia, depending on the type an individual has, treatment and support will be readily available. For example, medication such as Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors and memantine is usually prescribed to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to medication, the NHS recommends individuals diagnosed with dementia stay socially active, tell people about their dementia, look after their wider health and benefit from support in order to live as well as possible with the condition.

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