Angela Rippon revealed her mother became unusually aggressive as the disease progressed, and suffered from confusion and agoraphobia, but she was keen to make it clear that – with the right support – dementia sufferers can still lead fulfilling lives.
The 78-year-old journalist, who will be covering King Charles’s Coronation in May, revealed all about being a carer for mum Edna in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk.
“As people with dementia very often have a complete change of character, she would get very, very angry,” Angela recalled.
She continued: “I learnt not to take it personally, as that it was just the dementia speaking not my mum – and not to get upset by it.”
Edna was diagnosed with vascular dementia after Angela became concerned about her unusual behaviour and accompanied her to an appointment with her local GP.
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The concerned journalist quickly embarked on a “sharp learning curve” in a bid to manage her mum’s condition.
“I learnt very quickly that there was no point arguing with [her] about things,” she explained.
“Before my mother was diagnosed, my mother would say something and I would say, ‘Mummy, that’s not true’. She would go: ‘Yes, it is’ and we would have an argument.’ There was no point.
“I learnt very quickly to join my mother’s parallel universe and to agree with what she said, and if she got very difficult, to change the subject… to divert her attention.”
One such example was when she would talk of going to visit Angela’s grandmother, despite the fact that she’d died decades before, when the star was just six years old.
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“It was no good saying to my mum, ‘Mum, of course you can’t – granny’s dead’, because if my mother in her mind thought she was going to see her that afternoon, she would suddenly be incredibly distressed thinking that her mum had died,” she explained.
She recommends being “patient”, “understanding” and “inhabiting your loved one’s world”, rather than trying to tell them home truths that would unnecessarily upset them.
Edna had lost her husband the year before she was diagnosed, having previously enjoyed a 60-year marriage with him where the pair had been “joined at the hip” – and the devastating impact of that was still lingering over her at the time of diagnosis.
Angela urged that people with dementia should still be invited to family events and be able to feel they are “not being treated as an outsider”, as they are “still an important and much loved and respected person within [the] family”.
“People think: ‘She can’t remember anything, why should we bother to take her to the cinema?’ No, they’ll love it! You must [take them out], because they’ll want to enjoy the moment,” she exclaimed.
A third of us will develop dementia in our lifetimes. Alzheimer’s Society vows to help end the devastation caused by dementia, providing help and hope for everyone affected. For more information or to donate visit alzheimers.org.uk
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