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31Jan

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia by Wendy Mitchell review – a book of hope

Wendy Mitchell’s good-humoured practical guide to living with dementia has a deeper, more existential message for all of us: connect, forgive, accept and live

One bright afternoon not long ago, Wendy Mitchell saw her father in her garden. She was inside with a mug of tea and he was standing on the lawn in his baggy green cardigan, smiling at her. She saw the yellow of his nicotine-stained fingers and the shine of his black, Brylcreemed hair. They stared at each other, happy to be together again. Then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone and the sunlit lawn was empty.

Her father had been dead for more than 20 years and the sighting of him through the glass door was simply one of the many visual hallucinations that ambush Mitchell: the escalator turns into a waterfall; a marble floor is a swimming pool; a patterned carpet writhes with creatures; a person dressed in black becomes a disembodied head floating on air. Seeing her dead father could have been scary, confusing or painfully distressing, but instead Mitchell accepted the trick that dementia was playing on her as a gift, a moment of grace.

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