Motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart has revealed how he transformed his idyllic Swiss home to make the life of his demented wife Helen safer and more comfortable.
The Scottish racing star, 79, who won 99 Grands Prix during his illustrious racing career, described Lady Stewart’s battle with the devastating disease as “the biggest challenge of my life”.
Stewart has also invested £ 2million in university scholarships to help scientists find a cure for this cruel disease, which 225,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with each year.
Sir Jackie Stewart, 79, pictured with his wife Lady Helen, 77, at Wimbledon in 2016. Helen was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia five years ago and Stewart described her illness as the “biggest challenge of my life “
The couple pictured during Stewart’s heyday as a racing driver; the Scotsman won 99 Grands Prix during his distinguished track career
Privilege: The family worked hard to lead an enchanted life with a successful business after Sir Jackie’s racing career. Pictured: Jackie and Helen with their sons Paul and Mark in their pool in 1973
Speaking to Telegraph, Sir Jackie described how he took a proactive approach to Lady Helen’s illness.
He said, “I can’t just sit there, like I do with my wife, watching the degradation of dementia, not doing something.”
Helen was first diagnosed five years ago after she couldn’t remember how a car crash happened on the grounds of the couple’s lavish estate in Chiltern Hills.
How common is dementia?
Some 225,000 people will develop dementia this year – one every three minutes
Lady Stewart’s short-term memory and mobility are impaired by illness and daily chores are difficult, with the 77-year-old often being awake all night.
Now based full time in Geneva, Lady Helen is cared for 24 hours a day by a team of eight neuroscience nurses and the four-story house the couple share on the shores of Lake Geneva has been equipped with cutting edge technology. sensors to make sure Helen doesn’t trip over when awake at night.
Stewart with Lady Helen after winning the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1969. Sir Jackie invested £ 2million in college scholarships to try to find a cure for dementia
Lady Helen has a team of specialist nurses looking after her at the couple’s home on Lake Geneva and Stewart makes sure his wife dines with close family members twice a week.
The racing legend also maintains his wife’s social life, making sure she dines twice a week with her family members.
In 2016, Stewart described how Lady Helen’s illness first set in. He said: “My wife was the original pit lane girl, my professional stopwatch – timing my laps to the millisecond.
“His sharp mind was one of the things I fell in love with, and it’s his mind that is disappearing. His short-term memory is destroyed.
He continued, “Somehow I knew there was a problem when Helen stopped putting on her watch. It sounds silly, but she put on the same watch every day, and all of a sudden she didn’t.
“When she went to check the time and the watch was not there, she thought she had lost it or that it had fallen.
“At first I thought she forgot, but then she started to forget a lot of the little things that turned into bigger things.”