Asked to comment a TV programme……..

At the beginning of December I had an email from the Spectator magazine, asking if I would comment on a review one of their journalists had written about the TV screening of the fictional book Elizabeth is Missing, where the wonderful Glenda Jackson played the lead part of Maud, who was living with dementia.

Here’s the link to the article for you to read.

Sadly my response came out in the Christmas issue but was behind a paywall so I can’t provide the link. They did cut my response down to fit the space, as often happens  but here it is in its entirety…

I’m writing in response the review of Elizabeth is Missing, ‘Return to Glenda’ by James Walton.

I totally agreed with Waltons comments on the absent years of Glenda Jackson from the theatre but also admire her for fulfilling her passion and belief she could make a change in the political world.

It didn’t surprise me that Jackson chose this role as her comeback after more than 20 years away as Dementia is one of the biggest social challenges this country and indeed the world faces. The social care crisis is one that politicians have avoided for too long and the one that will not magically disappear as the population ages.

However, now may be the time to announce my vested interest in the piece. Sadly I’m now unable to read the book or follow the TV programme as I too have dementia, so can’t comment on Waltons view of the programme itself. I’m just happy whenever dementia get’s an airing on national TV simply to get people talking about dementia.

Dementia is certainly a bummer of a diagnosis and it can strip away your self esteem, your memories, your abilities. But we never forget how people make us feel. We forget the detail in the blink of an eye, but emotions remain strongly embedded as it’s a different part of our brain that’s often left in tact. I’ve already apologised to my daughters if and when I forget who they are, but tell them to remember that I’ll always love them.

You may be wondering how I can possibly type so eloquently; type these very words when I have dementia?

We have a complex brain disease, our experiences are individual. Image the brain as a string of fairy lights. Each fairy light representing a different function of the brain. Some lights flicker on and off – dementia affecting our ability to do something one day and then we’re able to the next. But when the light fail altogether that’s when dementia has won and has taken that ability away for good. But different fairy lights flicker and fail for each of us. That’s why I can type and other can’t; that’s why they still cook and I can’t;  that’s why they still feel hunger and I don’t. We’re all different in the cells it affects.

I can type words far quicker than I can think and speak them because that part of my brain hasn’t been affected others can’t type but can speak better than me. I could never in a millions years simply speak these words. Typing is my escape from dementia and I watch my fingers in awe sometimes.

However I never dwell on what I can’t do. I never dwell on my losses, we have no control over either.  Personality has such a big part to play in how we cope with a diagnosis and I’m lucky as I’ve always been a glass half full person and turn negative experiences into positives because that’s what helps me cope. When the fog descends and dementia takes hold I tell myself ‘it’s not me, it’s this cruel disease’ and I’ll just sit quietly and wait for the world to make sense once more.

Clinicians focus on ‘There’s nothing we can do for you” instead of focusing on what we still CAN so.  That makes it even more important for those around us to believe in what we can do and support us to continue living. I have two amazing daughters, Sarah and Gemma, who enable me rather than protect me. The biggest thing dementia has taught is is the power of talking so when dementia throws a challenge, we talk and try and find a solution. My mantra is ‘There’s always a way’, we just need the kindness and support of others to help find that way out of the situation.

Dementia may be terminal, but then so is life, so I enjoy each and every moment, the simple things in life are now more precious, time has taken on a whole new meaning and if today is a bad day…well tomorrow may be better.

Wendy Mitchell

Author of Somebody I Used to Know



About wendy7713

On the 31st July 2014 I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I may not have much of a short term memory anymore but that date is one I’ll never forget. I’m 58 years young, live happily alone in Yorkshire, have 2 daughters and I’m currently still in full time employment in the NHS. However, I’m now in the process of taking early retirement to give me a chance of enjoying life while I’m still me. I've started this blog to allow me, in the first instance, to write all my thoughts before they’re lost. If anyone chooses to follow my ramblings it will serve as a way of raising awareness on the lack of research into Alzheimer's. It will hopefully convey the helplessness of those diagnosed with dementia, as there is no cure – the end is inevitable. However, I’m also hoping I can convey that, although we've been diagnosed, people like me still have a substantial contribution to make; we still have a sense of humour; we sill have feelings. I’m hoping to show the reality of trying to cope on a day to day basis with the ever-changing environment that dementia throws at those diagnosed with the condition. What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.

17 thoughts on “Asked to comment a TV programme……..

  1. Beautifully put as ever Wendy. Writing is my “therapy” prose or poetry does for me as a form of exorcism. Mum, who has Alzheimer’s and vascular combined (we don’t do things by half in our house ) has just stopped cooking. I procured the most wonderful care worker who now lives in and adds quality to her life rather brilliantly. We were 147th on the urgent list for a carer before that. Crisis is right! Thanks for your continued words especially the poems you share. Mum’s still functioning brain is best with music. I’ve always been rubbish at remembering lyrics, but she’s still like a walking music score shop particularly for the wartime ballads she’d sung to the service personnel in a London during WW2. Her music is your writing when it comes to retained skills.

    Keep em coming. Loving the blog.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one to keep, and share around, Wendy. So eloquent, so clear about what it’s like for you living with Alzheimer’s, which gives those of us who don’t a really clear picture of how it is for you. Thank you so much! I hope lots of people read it in the orginal.

    PS I watched the film and thought of you and thought Glenda Jackson was really good. I’ve also read the book (but I think your book is better!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Wendy

    I am so grateful to you for your blog. My Mum was diagnosed with vascular dementia three years ago and we both find your daily dose of common sense, humour and honesty so helpful.

    We often chat about how you have your daughter’s cat Billy to help you feel happy and peaceful and my Mum has my German Shepherd Dog Tilly (before dementia Mum would have been afraid of Tilly, but over the last couple of years they’ve developed a close and lovely relationship).

    Thank you for your generosity through sharing your experiences with dementia, you are very much appreciated.

    With love from Lyn, Pat and Tilly the dog (photo attached)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This letter of yours is wonderful! You explain things so well, and I love the “fairy lights” analogy. I am sending it straight to my friend whose mother recently saw a neurologist and was given a vague “pre-dementia” diagnosis, and whose GP, at her follow-up visit, said the exact words, “Well, there’s nothing we can do.” Thank you for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope the film comes to Aussie TV. I always admired Genda Jackson and it is good to see her come back to take on this role. It was a good review, with an insightful phrase that hit a note….can’t think of the exact words but were around the poignant moments of lucidity. I love your response – as eloquent as always. The fairy lights analogy is a good one. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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