Opening up the conversation around dementia

Listening to my aunt tell the the story of my uncle’s heartbreaking illness and eventual death from dementia last year, made me realise that this is a condition that takes away the last years of a persons lives in the most devastating way for both the patient and the carers.

Dementia is an illness that increasingly affects more and more people and it’s something that is becoming more talked about in books, films and plays.  Monday’s Women’s Hour opened up the conversation around the subject and featured interviews with novelist Helen FitzGerald whose latest book, The Exit, tells the story of a woman in her eighties with dementia and Sally Magnusson, whose memoir, Where Memories Go is about the life of her mother and the way it is changed by dementia. Both are worth reading if you are caring for someone with the illness, as is the novel, Elizabeth is Missing, inspired by author Amma Healey’s grandmother.

Julianne Moore won a BAFTA and is nominated for an Oscar for her latest film, Still Alice where she plays a woman in her fifties diagnosed with early onset dementia – which is a terrifying thought. It is a sob inducing, honest view of a horrible illness and well worth seeing – when you are feeling strong!


  • sue evans says:

    Dementia is truly a disease of our time and one our generation is increasingly having to face upto. My father was in his mid-80s when dementia struck so you could argue his life was all but over anyway ( not that his age made it any easier for us as a family, watching him slowly disappear into his own silent world) but I have made a friend here in France who has an early-onset version of the illness. She is in her mid fifties and over that last 6 months has gone from a being a vital, bustling French teacher to someone who doesn’t know how to communicate with anyone because she can no longer remember words or facts. Consequently, people avoid her because they don’t know what to say to her and she is becoming a lonely isolated person whose life as she knew it is slowly ebbing away. It distroys everything we all take for granted — basic things like going shopping, planning our day, watching TV or listening to the radio, meeting friends, reading …….
    There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to who the illness strikes which is what makes it all the more disturbing. The government needs to start investing more in care and research before this becomes an epidemic.

  • amanda says:

    I’m actually a bit scared of going to see this film, I’m worried it will be me in a few years time. Every time I forget something I think I’m getting dementia, it’s gone from being an amusing quip to a terrifyingly close possibility. More research, quickly please….Ax

  • Father Bob says:

    God willing ,we two eighty plus “oldies” pray neither of us will succumb to this affliction, and reassure Amanda, forgetfulness need not always be a source of worry .
    It is not the first time and, it will not be the last, when we have jointly agreed to put, papers, keys ,and other important items in a safe place, then when we need to retrieve them, can’t remember where they are!. Humour usually ensues and, eventually one of us remembers.

  • Jane says:

    thats so sad Sue and I agree there needs to more research etc – lets hope its happening as we speak as its a terrifying thought
    J x

  • carol says:

    It is so good to see people willing to open up the conversation about dementia. Sharing concerns can often help to put our worries into perspective.
    Over the last few years a small group of friends and I have been chatting to people living in care homes for elderly people. We encourage conversation for people struggling with memory issues. Often it is easier for these people to retrieve memories from their childhood or early life than to remember whether they have eaten breakfast or lunch, so we try to exploit their early memories. Although it can be tricky setting up and sustaining conversations it is always fun, full of laughter and shared experiences. We try to have a positive impact on the lives of “lonely isolated” people through simple homely conversation.
    I would encourage readers to take their knitting and a few childhood memories, forget their own trepidation and share a cup of tea and chat with the amazing, silent women in their 80ies and 90ies.

  • Jane says:

    What a great idea Carol – we could do with more people like you and your friends in the world.
    J x

  • k says:

    I am very glad dementia is finally getting media attention, and wish it would extend to the wider issue of brain damage. My husband had a severe stroke in july 2013 which left him with cognitive difficulties as well as losing use of his right arm and difficulties walking. if the physical effects weren’t isolating enough, what has been most distressing is how unable most people are to acknowledge or deal with what presents, as in dementia, as a change in personality. Most if not all of his male friends have melted away, as has his family, who can’t accept what has happened to him. So all hail our wise women friends in the 40s and 50s, who have the insight, empathy and energy to carry on supporting us both and our young children…

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