Book group: What I Wish People Knew About Dementia, by Wendy Mitchell

We read this second book from Wendy Mitchell, who was diagnosed with young-onset dementia aged 58.

Many readers will recognise Wendy Mitchell, a blogger and activist whose first book – Somebody I Used to Know – is a Sunday Times bestseller. 

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia, which Wendy also wrote in collaboration with Anna Wharton, has made a similar splash. 

Caroline Branney, who manages our Dementia Knowledge Centre, says, ‘Her second book is also worth reading if you have any interest at all in dementia. 

‘Written in a chatty, readable style and filled with many anecdotes and stories, the book is packed with really insightful observations.’

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia, by Wendy Mitchell

Peter Turner, a reader in West Yorkshire, who says he ‘avidly devoured’ it, adds, ‘I found it to be a very informative yet easily read book.’ 

Janet Dandy in Lancashire, whose mother-in-law was diagnosed with dementia, says, ‘I was inspired and greatly admiring to learn that the author is able to live alone, through the help of her family, friends and neighbours. 

‘And though she is honest about her struggles and frustrations, it was wonderful to read how she has found ways to still live an active and interesting life, plus contribute so much to research and more understanding of dementia.’

Mines of information 

‘Wendy emphasises that everyone is different,’ says Caroline, ‘just as they all were before dementia. In this book, she includes other people’s experiences as well as her own.’ 

Peter says, ‘The individual sections are mines of useful information, drawn up in a storytelling way with humorous anecdotes helping to illustrate the points.

‘I particularly liked the “senses” chapter and how it covered areas I would never have considered.’ 

Janet agrees, ‘The book covers problems regarding food issues, room and building design, relationships, communication, impact on emotional capacity and information about sensory hallucinations, such as odours – the latter of which I had not heard about previously. 

‘Wendy also brings a positive viewpoint about how modern technology has assisted her, including the use of Twitter, Alexa and phone apps.’

Crucial attitudes 

‘The main message I took from the book,’ says Janet, ‘was that the attitudes, language and communication from others (especially professionals) can be so crucial, and that so much could still be improved upon.’ 

Caroline says, ‘Wendy has strong opinions on many areas including relationships, social isolation, environment and living alone with dementia. 

‘She criticises the diagnostic process as being “far too clinical” and makes it very clear that there is much room for improvement in professional language used around the condition – for example, terms like “challenging behaviour” – and in attitudes towards people with dementia.’ 

Peter says, ‘I thought I knew quite a lot about dementia having had it thrust into my life in 1990, but I have learned an amazing amount from this book on many simple aspects of a person’s daily life with dementia. 

‘I only wish it had been available to me all those years ago when dealing with my father’s dementia. If it had, I would not have made so many mistakes. I hope others discover it in time to help their present situations.’ 

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia, by Wendy Mitchell (Bloomsbury, 2022), 240 pages, £14.99, ISBN 9781526634481. Also an ebook.

Your turn

For the next issue, we invite you to read one or both of these books:

Why Dementia Makes Communication Difficult by Alison Wray (Jessica Kingsley, 2021), 192 pages, £22.99, ISBN 9781787756069. 

Dementia Together: How to Communicate to Connect by Pati Bielak-Smith (Puddledancer, 2020), 224 pages, £16.99, ISBN 9781934336182. 

Tell us what you think about either of these books, both of which are also available as ebooks. Email us by the end of 3 May 2022 so we can share it in our next magazine. 

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Dementia together magazine

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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