Somebody I used to know
By Marion Foreman. Published 2020-03-11
A conversation with the acclaimed author Wendy Mitchell
Recently I had the great privilege of talking to Wendy Mitchell the author of the acclaimed book ‘Somebody I used to know’; a hugely powerful book describing in fierce detail Wendy’s experience of being diagnosed and living with dementia.
What inspired her to write the book?
Wendy said, she had always wanted to hold a book that she had written in her hand and if others read it and learnt more about dementia, it would be very humbling. Even with dementia you just don’t know what you CAN achieve and that her book ‘is testament to that thought’.
I wondered where she had found the energy and enthusiasm to write such a great book.
Wendy said that ‘it’s actually exhausting having dementia, but what’s the alternative to not ‘doing’? She says she would rather die of exhaustion than dementia. What a brilliant take on life – don’t sit back and wait for it to happen – get out there and live everyday to the full. She said that the enthusiasm is ‘fueled’ by the comments of others. But, she says, there is still ‘an awful lot to do to eliminate the stigma associated with dementia’.
So, I wanted to know what has helped her most to live with dementia?
Wendy told me that it was her daughters who have provided this help – and they have provided it by enabling her, not protecting her. ‘If we (people with dementia) stop doing things we quickly forget how to do things’. If we are helping someone with dementia we need to assist, not to take over. We need to be patient and be with, not ‘do for’.
What can we do to help?
Wendy wants us to stop saying ‘do you remember when…..?’ because people with dementia won’t remember. She wants us to live in her world, not to expect her to live in ours – because she can’t. Wendy says that people living with dementia may not recognize family members because they are expecting to see the younger version – they haven’t really forgotten you – just can’t quite place you in the right time.
Wendy also asks us to be kind to people with dementia when you answer their questions. She says that if a widow asks you where her husband is it is just not a good idea to tell her that he has died. This will just upset her again, only for her to forget and ask you all over again. Wendy suggests that we deflect the question with another question such as – ‘where do you think he might be?’ This is a much kinder response. Please leave the person with dementia with hope says Wendy.
Thank you Wendy for great hints and tips.
Please read her book – it is hugely enlightening
Wendy has a great blog that can be found here . Thanks Wendy for the inspiration from all at TheBoldAge.