Bill and Jo sat on their couch, smiling and holding hands

How my wife's early dementia diagnosis gave us relief

When Bill noticed something wasn't quite right with his wife, Jo, it was a struggle to get her to seek help. Bill reflects on why finally getting Jo a dementia diagnosis was the best thing for the couple.

We're sad to share that, since Bill and Jo kindly told us their story, Jo died in early 2023.

Jo, my wife of over 50 years, was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s in June 2020 at 66 years old.

She was always very clever and worked her way through the nursing ranks. Jo was named Student Nurse of the Year and Midwife of the Year at one point in her career. Once she left nursing, she started her own risk management consultancy.

Jo was eventually headhunted by the biggest insurance broker in the world! She travelled the globe in a very male-dominated business, so did well to reach the level she did.

Work was her whole life.

So in 2006 when Jo decided to leave it all one day - just packed up her laptop and left – I was shocked.

A photo of a framed picture of Jo at her graduation

Jo had a very successful career

Realising something wasn't right

I recognised early on that things weren’t right with Jo. In 2018 we were visiting friends in Florida, staying a few blocks away from them. I got a call from them to say Jo was at their place. She was hammering on the door saying people had come to the house we were staying in, asking for money.

On the drive over I realised she had been seeing and hearing people, but I hadn’t taken it seriously.

This was the first real wake-up call that something was wrong.

In the film below, Bill talks about noticing the signs in Jo, and how getting a diagnosis helped them build a new life.

Seeking a diagnosis

For a year I tried to get Jo to see our GP, but she refused. In November 2019 we both went to see him for something else.

When Jo went to the toilet, I said to the nurse, ‘can you mention to the doctor that I think Jo may have dementia, and can he do tests?’

She did, and at the beginning of the appointment he asked Jo if there was anything she wanted to talk about. He told her, ‘your husband is worried about you’.

I wasn’t happy about that, I didn’t want to be the ‘bad guy’.

I explained her symptoms, which Jo denied. The GP did the usual tests, such as counting back from 100 in 7s, which she failed miserably. He said her memory wasn’t anywhere as good as it should be and she needed more tests. Jo was referred for a brain scan.

The brain scan was scheduled for the day before lockdown started. The clinic phoned and said they’d be closing that day, and to get there in the next 30 minutes or Jo wouldn’t be able to have the scan.

I had already been banging on the door to get it done and was prepared to do what it took to get Jo that appointment.

Jo and Bill sat in their garden, looking into the distance

Bill was determined to get Jo a diagnosis

We received the official diagnosis over the phone in June 2020, when Jo was 66. We weren’t offered any information or advice. I was asked, ‘Is there anything you need to know?’

But I didn’t know what I needed to know – so how can I ask?

Challenges at the memory clinic

Between lockdowns we were able to go into the memory clinic to see a doctor there. I was very unhappy with her as she was very uncaring. She prescribed medication and it was a case of just ‘off you go now’.

As we were leaving, I said there was no way we would see that doctor again.

I made a complaint, so we were then able to see a senior consultant. She was a marvellous lady who was brilliant as she explained everything, like the different types of dementia and medications.

We were given leaflets and books, but despite this the whole process was very poor. I know many carers have not had a good experience but still, I am grateful for the memory clinic.

Bill hugging Jo, kissing the back of her head while she looks forward

Bill struggled to access the right support following Jo's diagnosis

Coping with the process

They wanted to discharge Jo but I refused to let this happen. Jo now has a Community Psychiatric Nurse attached to her case, and they were able to get another CPN for myself when at one point I reached rock bottom.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

I was severely struggling and got to the point where I fell to my knees on the kitchen floor and cried.

I realised I needed to pick myself up, or I could go into a downward spiral. I asked for a psychologist – this was the most valuable thing I got from the memory clinic.

I feel lucky I was able to get help, but luck shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Now, Jo is still in denial about her diagnosis, she has no insight into her condition at all. We can’t say ‘dementia’ in the house, she gets upset. And she doesn’t know I’m her husband anymore, which is very upsetting.

She might not know I’m her husband, but I know she’s my wife. I’m glad she feels safe and comfortable with someone she doesn’t know she is in a relationship with, than unsafe with someone she does.

An image of a framed photograph of Bill and Jo at their wedding

'She might not know I’m her husband, but I know she’s my wife,' says Bill.

How getting a diagnosis helped us

A benefit of getting Jo's diagnosis, to me, is that I have found an inner strength. I draw on this special reserve I must have always had, that keeps me going and keeps me speaking for my wife.

For example, I will insist that people - especially medical professionals - speak directly to Jo and look her in the eye. If she cannot answer I can step in, but I will not have people talk about her while she is there. It’s about having respect.

In my heart of hearts, I knew long before it was confirmed that Jo had dementia.

The diagnosis relieved that stress. It was a fact, no longer a suspicion. I said to myself ‘it’s there right in front of you, now hang your hat on it’. We’ve been told, we must accept it and learn about it. We can breathe again.

With this all happening during lockdown, I was also able to do a lot of my own research.

This brought benefits such as keeping my own brain sharp, but also gave me the information I needed to be able to make good decisions and plan for the future.

We couldn’t live the same way anymore, but it didn’t mean it had to be all bad.

I found it liberating, actually. We were free, and no longer hiding from it. At first, we only told close friends and family, but then I changed my mind and wanted everyone to know so I announced it on Facebook!

I want to shout from the rooftops that we need to talk more about dementia.

Bill with his arms around Jo while they both laugh

Bill and Jo together.

Talking to your GP about dementia

If you're preparing to talk to your GP about memory problems, read our advice to help you make the most of your conversation.

Read more


I fully understand what Bil and Jo went through. My father -in-law was eventually diagnosed with vascular dementia and is now in expensive care he is 97 years old. His wife at 94 years of age is unable to care for him which gives her great sadness to be living apart. Just getting him assessed was a problem and it wasn't until he had to go into hospital for another issue that he was recorded or identified with dementia. We as a family could see and witnessed the signs but no one took any notice. There is a lack of knowledge it seems within the medical profession on how to identify dementia. The Alzheimers Society are doing what they can and our way of supporting them is to take part in their Memory Walks and help raise funds to support their efforts.
Bill tears filled my eyes tonight as i listened to the sad new that Jo had passed but always remember she will always be in your heart forever and will watch over you. I am going through the same process as you with my wife who after falling and banging her head in 2021 rapidly went down with Dementia. The doctors were almost useless and mental health teams initially were non existent and i was left to fight for help. The hospital were also at fault as they did not perform a brain scan which later left everyone bewildered. Over the next year or so i cried myself to sleep many nights and my mental state went downhill, like you we have been married 53 years and the whole thing has brought me to the brink many times, but i have to somehow carry on. I visit every day but i know there is no coming back for her. Keep strong Bill and i hope will will always push forward with the help of family and friends.
Dearest Bill , We send send you our deepest sympathies having heard you have lost your brilliant wife Jo. We’ve followed your story on the BBC and and saw you both endure so much until Jo was finally moved into the place of help and support. And still we don’t understand why it took the authorities so long to put Jo’s package of care into practice. To loose your dear wife Jo to dementia, then out of your home into care and for her to shortly to pass away within the week is so unfair. Bless you both. We feel your despair. We heard you say that the NHS pay for heath care but dementia is excluded despite the disease being an enormous health issue. One in four people get dementia in a growing ageing population. This health problem is not going to get better either. It needs proper funding. The future reform of the NHS must participate in merging with social care for the responsibility for people like Jo living with dementia and yourself as her carer. As you said we must all shout out from the rooftops for reform. You will have our support in memory of your dear wife Jo. Sincerely, Deborah and Steve Stourport on Severn
Dear Bill, I have just learned from the news that your beloved Jo has passed away. Please accept my condolences at this very sad time. Jo was a very loved woman and you have been the most devoted husband I can imagine. I hope you will soon find peace and consolation.
All my thoughts in what must have been a surreal journey, what amazing woman and a strong husband by her side
Bill I can relate to everything that you’re going through I’m going through the exact same with my wife she was diagnosed at 65 she’s now 69 and has rapidly faded away over past few years she doesn’t know me or anyone else can’t do anything for herself it’s so heartbreaking seeing the person you love going bit by bit knowing there is nothing you can do except be there for her. My thoughts are with you stay strong my friend.

Hi Harry, 

We're very sorry to hear about your wife. Please know you're not alone, and we're here for you.

You can always call our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They will listen to you and provide specific information, advice and support. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours and other methods of contact) here:

You may also find it useful to speak with other people who have gone through or are going through similar experiences within our online community, Talking Point:  - you can browse topics or sign up for free, day or night.

We hope this is helpful.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Bill, I have just seen tonight’s news. I am so sad for you, I cry with you. I cannot offer you anything but my prayers that you will manage your future without Jo. Thank you for your story on BBC raising the problems of families coping with dementia. Bless you
Bless you Bill, your beloved wife could not have had a kinder, thoughtful, loving husband. You will be feeling bereft, I am sure you will have much love and support in the coming months. Thank you for allowing me to follow some of your journey through the BBC. RIP Jo 🙏
I’ve just watched your story on the BBC news. I am desperately sorry for your loss and the enduring struggle you’ve both gone through. God bless you and your family in the days and months ahead.
Dearest Bill. I saw that you lost your beautiful wife last weekend. Thank you for talking about your journey. I'm sending deepest condolences and Kindest thoughts to you.
Bill, I feel for you, the tiredness and hopelessness. It is so debilitating and sad. I’m not quite at your level yet but admire your tenacity and and care for your wife. I can’t do anything but pray for you.
Bill Both of you are remarkable people. Both your interviews in BBC really brought home what you do and what state this country is currently undergoing. You are a true gentleman that is doing fantastic things not only for your wife but to again make everyone aware of what support is needed for you and people loved that suffer this illness. Take care.
Bill you are an inspiration: a loving husband and a powerful advocate.
Bill,your story had me in tears,I felt exactly what you were feeling, not knowing which way to turn for help,and being let down by the memory clinic. I have joined the rsvp group in Cramlington,Northumberland,and there are groups like this dotted all over the country. A group of us,20+ meet up on a Thursday. Carers and their husbands/wives with dementia. It is an interactive day from 10-2 with physical and mental activities we all take part in and after lunch the carers split off into their own group for an informal chat and that has given me so much comfort in sharing hardship,stories and successes with others in a similar position. Margaret and her team then spend that same hour working with the dementia group on mental & physical activities. My wife loves it and so do I. Glad you are getting support now. Best Wishes.Gary and Sheila.Warkworth.
What an inspirational story, I can feel the love shining through. Never give up hope.