Timothy West and wife Pru hugging outside

Timothy West shares the story of life with wife Pru after her dementia diagnosis

Actor Timothy West discusses wife Prunella Scales' dementia diagnosis and how theatre still plays an important role in their relationship.


Actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales have been delighting audiences since their acting debuts in the 1950s and have been married since 1963. Timothy's relationship with Pru is the basis of his new book, 'Pru and Me', which includes talking about life following her dementia diagnosis.

How we met

Pru and I met whilst being in a 'not very good' television play, and we weren’t really interested in the parts we were cast in. A BBC electricians strike also meant that we had an awful lot of time on our hands, which suited us as we had a lot of interests in common.

The nature of the acting industry meant that we spent a lot of time at different ends of the country.

But when I was able to, I kept Pru company at whichever theatre she was performing in. 

A black and white photo of Tim and Pru with Sam and Joe

Pru and Timothy with their sons

Pru's dementia diagnosis

I didn’t really know anything about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. But I was aware that something was bothering Pru when I saw her perform on stage at Greenwich Theatre in 2001.

Always a consummate professional who knew all her lines, I noticed that she was grappling for some of the script.

Whatever was wrong, I knew we should probably get a medical opinion about it.

It wasn’t until 2013 that Pru was actually diagnosed with vascular dementia. I don’t recall us being pushed towards any specific treatment or support.

Now I feel that, if we had been, it may have helped us. But, at the time, it was very much 'carry on and deal with it as best you can'.

Diagnosis doesn't define us

We also didn’t want the diagnosis to be the defining thing about us, as we both continued to work in theatre, television, film and radio.

And although Pru has now stepped back from acting, she has contributed to the audio version of a book I’ve written about our relationship, 'Pru and Me'.

I’ve written a couple of books before and I think you get better at it. You find out more about yourself, which is interesting, as I wrote some of it long ago.

But this isn’t a book about Alzheimer’s by any means. It is about some of the things we’ve experienced, and because we’ve experienced them, they have brought us together and made us who we are.

Theatre plays an important role

We still very much enjoy going to the theatre and to concerts.

Whilst I wasn’t very aware that there are dementia specific performances, or that more theatres are working towards becoming dementia-friendly, I think this sounds like a positive step.

I’m unable to have the same in-depth conversation about stage productions with Pru that I used to enjoy. But we continue to do the things we have always done, as it's important to continue to live.

I appreciate that everyone’s experience of dementia can be different. I’m very sympathetic to anybody who has difficulty, either on their own or having to cope with relatives or friends with dementia.

Pru and Tim in a kitchen

Pru and Timothy together

Enduring love

It helps to have people around you who understand. To a certain extent, you can help people through things they do like to talk about or be reminded of – you shouldn’t feel like you’ve been lost.

Do what you can and carry on in way that works for you.

In the book, I say: "[We] have exactly the same conversation every day of the week and it's something I never tire of. Repetition doesn't really exist in Pru's world and the look on her face when she enters the room and sees me sitting there on the sofa waiting for her makes me realise just how much I love her."

It’s what our relationship is based on, a wonderful enduring love.

Checklist for possible dementia symptoms

View or download a copy of our checklist, which will help you to explain and record any possible dementia symptoms with your GP.

Dementia symptoms checklist


It has been very uplifting to read this! I have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my wife Pam and we received excellent advice about living life well in the allotted time, and help to find our way ahead. God bless Memory Clinics! I hope I’ll be able to stay optimistic and cheery forever, like Timothy and Pru, and keep seeing the sunny, funny sides of life.
My beloved husband, who had dementia, died from a stroke a few months ago. I miss him dreadfully. No family nearby - not easy. It was a second marriage for both following a chance meeting and we were very happy>
I must read Timothys book, my wife Janet has Alzheimer’s and we feel we must enjoy life to the full, we have become Patrons of the Hall for Cornwall theatre and on average go there once a week, we also go to the Hayle memory cafe, where we have received some wonderful advice and met some really good friends, live your life despite Alzheimer’s, do not let it stop you in any way
Huge fan of Pru in her acting years, my heart goes out to you both, not easy, I know from experience. My husband has Alzheimers, I struggle quite often, but try to stay strong and loving, so easy to become frustrated. What a journey.
The photo at the head of this story says so much! The pride in Peter West's face, born of deep admiration, joyful companionship and oneness in love, affection and sparky humour. Way, way beyond loyalty & duty. But is that a hint of emotional struggle behind the eyes? A trailing air of loss and sadness? My wife talks to me only with her face and eyes now. The love and good humour in her smile and in her eyes breaks my heart. Its wonderful but it was better before!!! I've seen the same looks between Peter & Prunella (if I may be so bold as to use just their first names). It really is inspirational to see. And as has been said on here, even if most days are the same, its not repetition. Its a new day, a new sunny upland! Hopefully!!! Ps. visiting Carers can be terrific. Ours are! Ditto friends (we have carefully coached them in this new game!!!).
My husband suffered from dementia for a short time before he died following a stroke last year last year. He was always good natured which made things easier, I think. i miss him very much.
I quite understand all your meaningful words, my wife Pammy had the same disease for ten years, I cared for her every second of those years, sadly Pammy passed away and she is still with me I just tip the buckets of tears away. So I do feel for you.
my wife Katie of 54yrs was diagnosed with vascular dementia 5yrs ago and we like many others was given the diagnoses yes it is vascular dementia few pieces of paper next and that was almost it she is supposed to see the dementia nurse every 6 months seen her twice so yes most people are very much on there own my heart goes out to all
My Husband recently passed with Vascular Dementia, I loved and cared for him until it was impossible. But we used to love watching Tim and Pru on their canal journeys together holding hands, and you could see the love and care between them. God Bless you both shall look forward to reading Tim's book. 🙏
my wife of 54yrs was diagnosed 5yrs ago and very much the same as many thats what you got next patient so very much on our own its a very cruel illness watching someone you love so dearly (worship) so my heart goes out to both of them
How both poignant and uplifting to read their own personal story of dementia. The threads that shines so brightly are the love, kindness and patience that Timothy provides for Pru. Dementia creates a vulnerable and sometimes bewildering world for us - but when someone truly cares our vulnerabilities can be supported and eased and life has a deeper meaning and purpose. Dementia can still be about Joy and sharing life experiences that make us feel like we belong and matter. I loved reading this article it inspired me to be a better carer for people living dementia. It made me recognise the importance of sharing the things we love with those most vulnerable. A beautiful story. Thank you to Timothy and Pru. Many more happy days we send your way.
Wow, Just the thought of being able to say THANK YOU to both of you. Loved you are. Held together the world can see to love.
I love the fact that throughout this terrible dementia that Pru has that your love for each other has not dwindled. I used to watch & love your series of canal journeys & it’s great that you carry on going to the theatre and concerts. I’m going to enjoy reading your book. God bless you both xx
My wonderful creative and beautiful wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and eventually passed away because of it in 2021. We had been married for 61 years. The. NHS recognises and approves four drugs for treating this evil disease and none of them seem to be effective. Why does this rich country spend much more on research so that people will not have to endure what my wife went through.
My Partner Evelyn was diagnosed with Alzheimers and is now living in a care home which was a difficult decision to make but the right one, when I visit which is frequently she's really pleased to see me,which breaks my heart and pleases me in equal measure, I love her with all of my heart and always will.