Wendy Mitchell is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease nine years ago at the age of 58, after an initial slump into depression, she has since devoted her time and precious energy to raising awareness of dementia, frequently appearing on our broadcast media – she’s a familiar face on the Breakfast Time sofas – and speaking at major conferences.
Wendy’s blog, Which Me Am I Today remains one of my favourite reads and, in writing it, she’s created her own paper memory, something that has enabled her to produce two Sunday Times best-selling books about dementia, Somebody I Used to Know and What I Wish People Knew About Dementia – both of which were written in collaboration with journalist Anna Wharton.
This summer, Wendy’s third book, One Last Thing, was published to great acclaim. As with all Wendy’s writings, it comes from the heart and is honest, insightful and highly readable. Which, given its subject matter, is no mean feat. For One Last Thing deals with that most feared of subjects: death and dying. Though, as Wendy says herself, since her dementia diagnosis, she doesn’t fear anything anymore, including death.
In her book Wendy turns her mind to the serious matter of her future – which, as it does for all of us, involves her death – in order that she may fully appreciate living now. She explores this knotty, difficult topic through conversations with different people, including friends living with dementia and experts in various aspects of end of life, such as the legal practicalities and medical choices here in the UK.
Often, she turns the spotlight onto herself:
“As dementia dilutes my personhood,” she writes, “I cling to those things that make me who I am – a mum, a blogger, a walker and a photographer. For me, once those parts of me have been taken by this cruel disease, I’ll have lost my personhood and would prefer death to an existence of snapshots of joy, as the time spent in confusion would far outnumber those moments”.
Wendy’s blog can be found at whichmeamitoday.wordpress.com and her latest book, One Last Thing, How to Live With The End In Mind, published by Bloomsbury is available on Amazon; you can discover more about Clare Fuller and her services (Clare is the advance care planning advocate Wendy mentioned) at speakforme.co.uk; while you can find My Future Care Handbook, an interactive book that helps people plan for later life, at myfuturecare.org.