This is an opinion piece by Jean Tottie on ‘Somebody I used to know’ by Wendy Mitchell, with Anna Wharton, you can find out more about the book here. Jean Tottie is Chair and Founding Director of Life Story Network, who host tide.
This is not a book review but my recommendation to others to read it.
Having just finished reading this book I have to say it was the most inspiring book I have ever read in the field of dementia. I have met Wendy on a number of occasions and she always thrilled me with her beaming smile and need for a good cup of Yorkshire tea – I’m with her on that one – the tea that is. In fact Wendy mentions this so many times in her book I think that Taylors of Harrogate (the makers of Yorkshire tea) should give her a lifetime supply!
Wendy has been so honest in this book that I find it difficult to reconcile the very private person that she describes with the person we meet today in meetings. She describes the daily struggles of living independently but the sheer determination to overcome any new difficulties that arise. What a fiercely independent woman she has always been and this drives her to find ways around her struggles with daily life.
What I think will be helpful to carers in particular are the descriptions of what happens when the ‘fog descends’ and she cannot cope at all for a while. I often hear carers ask ‘if only I knew what was going on inside his head’. Her accounts come to life and you can almost visualise what she is doing at that time.
Of course this is only one person’s experience which Wendy is at pains to point out as everyone is affected by dementia differently. Nevertheless it is brilliantly written and everyone who reads it can learn something.
Wendy is absolutely adamant that her two daughters are not, nor will they ever be in her eyes, her carers. They are her daughters who she raised as a single mum and is so clearly very proud of them. I’m sure they are so very proud of their mum too. Since getting a diagnosis of dementia nearly 4 years ago Wendy has travelled the length and breadth of the country to raise awareness of dementia and the importance of research.