Wendy Mitchell obituary


The author-activist Wendy Mitchell, who has died aged 68, received hearts and minds advocating for residing positively with dementia. She was decided to remind people who these residing with the illness should not “victims” and that there’s “a starting, a center and an finish to the illness – with a lot life to be lived in between”. She held robust beliefs that folks ought to have the fitting to decide on their very own demise, and campaigned for assisted dying legal guidelines in Britain – one of many topics of her remaining e book.

Wendy wrote three bestsellers, Any individual I Used to Know (2018), What I Want Individuals Knew About Dementia (2022) and One Final Factor: Stay with the Finish in Thoughts (2023) – I used to be lucky sufficient to be her ghostwriter on all of them. They have been translated into dozens of languages, and her advocacy work received her honorary doctorates from Bradford and Hull Universities, and a British Empire Medal final yr.

Once I met Wendy in 2016, she was writing a every day weblog, Which Me Am I At the moment? ,which she had began merely to doc her day-to-day life, although it quickly had tens of hundreds of followers. After her prognosis of young-onset vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s illness in July 2014, Wendy was shocked on the lack of understanding and assist accessible to these newly identified.

In Any individual I Used to Know, she wrote about her personal despair on the prognosis, till she realised: “I used to be nonetheless the identical particular person I had been the day earlier than my prognosis.” She threw herself into tutorial and medical analysis, chatting with medical doctors, nurses and different professionals. What I Want Individuals Knew About Dementia chronicled how the illness impacts completely different elements of every day life, other than reminiscence, together with style, scent, listening to, gait and imaginative and prescient.

Her suggestions, equivalent to draping a shawl over a flat-screen tv to keep away from it trying like a gap within the wall, or sticking images of garments on wardrobe doorways as a reminder of what’s inside, made all of the distinction to those that have been newly identified.

Wendy loved discovering methods to outwit dementia. As she wrote in her remaining weblog put up: “Sure, dementia is a bummer, however oh what a life I’ve had enjoying video games with this adversary of mine to try to keep one step forward.”

Born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, to Violet and Ken Draper, Wendy described rising up of their pub in her first memoir. She went to highschool in Pontefract and was a eager sportswoman, excelling at tennis and working – after her prognosis, she swapped working for fell-walking within the Lake District. She described the Lakes as her “paradise” and Friars Crag as her favorite place to take a seat.

Wendy raised her two daughters, Sarah and Gemma, alone after her divorce from their father within the early Nineteen Eighties (though she continued to make use of her married title). For a few years she earned her residing as a cleaner, till she began working in administrative roles throughout the NHS, gaining promotion to develop into a non-clinical staff chief. Finally she was compelled to retire from her job as a rota supervisor at Leeds common infirmary, and later campaigned for workplaces to assist these newly identified with dementia to proceed working: “We don’t lose all our expertise in a single day simply due to our prognosis,” she stated.

In early retirement Wendy found different expertise, together with writing, and loved her “trundles” across the village of Walkington, within the East Driving of Yorkshire, the place she lived, capturing native wildlife together with her trusted Nikon digicam. She revelled in the truth that villagers unaware at first of her prognosis described her as “the girl with the digicam”.

She met many dementia advocates, and was impressed to take up campaigning when she heard Agnes Houston discuss at a ladies and dementia occasion in York. Wendy turned a guiding gentle to others, a daily contributor at Improvements in Dementia and York Minds and Voices, a part of the DEEP UK Community of Dementia Voices.

She gathered her personal formidable staff of mates residing with dementia, who produced video content material chatting concerning the points they encountered and nicknamed themselves “the 4 Amigos”. She suggested on the BBC TV sequence Casualty and the film Nonetheless Alice (2014), and acquired a point out from the Hollywood actor Julianne Moore in her Bafta acceptance speech.

Wendy raised tens of hundreds of kilos for Dementia UK together with her annual “wacky challenges”, as she known as them, daredevil stunts that included strolling throughout sizzling coals, skydiving, wingwalking and, final autumn, a swim in Derwentwater after she was compelled to desert her abseil down the Leadenhall constructing in London (the “Cheesegrater”) resulting from technical points (theirs, not hers). She insisted that she was fearless after her prognosis, having already confronted the worst.

Wendy was a drive of nature, however dementia made her life tougher and tougher. She ended her life by voluntarily stopping consuming and ingesting (VSED), a topic she mentioned in One Final Factor. In her final weblog put up, written prematurely, by which she introduced her demise, she stated: “Adapting to this life with dementia is over, however I don’t take into account dementia has received, as that may be destructive … it’s me calling time on my dementia – checkmate – earlier than it performs its remaining transfer.”

She additionally pleaded for folks to marketing campaign for assisted dying legal guidelines in her reminiscence.

Reviewing Any individual I Used To Know for the Sunday Instances in 2018, Jackie Annesley wrote: “The world might do with extra Wendys.” I couldn’t agree extra, however there was just one fantastic Wendy, taking folks by the hand and displaying them learn how to stay an excellent life with the illness in tow, or certainly learn how to discuss concerning the finish of life to allow them to as a substitute concentrate on residing.

Wendy is survived by her daughters.


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