Britain’s Thatcher has dementia

11:36, 26 August 2008
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For at least eight years already

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been suffering from dementia for at least eight years and has often had to be reminded that her husband is dead, according to her daughter, Carol, according to NYTimes.

It is common knowledge that Mrs. Thatcher, 82, has been fragile since suffering a series of small strokes in 2002 and since the death of her husband, Denis, in 2003. She gave up public speaking several years ago, on the advice of her doctor, and makes far fewer appearances than she once did.

But while people in Mrs. Thatcher’s circle have long known that her mind is not what it once was, they have not spoken publicly about it until now.

Details of Mrs. Thatcher’s condition are recounted by her daughter in a new memoir, “A Swim-On Part in the Goldfish Bowl,” an excerpt of which appeared in The Mail on Sunday.

Carol Thatcher, 55, said that it was during a lunch at a London hotel in 2000 when she realized her mother was mentally slipping. They began discussing the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s when, to Carol Thatcher’s dismay, it became clear her mother was confusing that crisis with the Falklands war of the 1980s.

Mrs. Thatcher’s confusion was all the more upsetting because she had always been known for her prodigious memory and grasp of minute details.

“I almost fell off my chair,” Carol Thatcher writes in the memoir, which will be published on Sept. 4. “Watching her struggle with her words and memory, I couldn’t believe it. She was in her 75th year, but I had always thought of her as ageless, timeless.”

In the memoir, Carol Thatcher describes how her mother began asking the same questions over and over, oblivious to the fact that she was doing so. She describes how on the day of the terrorist bombings in Madrid in 2004, Mrs. Thatcher was entertaining friends for dinner but, by the time they arrived, had forgotten about the bombings.

Most distressing was the fact that after her husband died, Mrs. Thatcher had to be reminded repeatedly that he was gone.

“Every time it finally sank in that she had lost her husband of more than 50 years,” Carol Thatcher writes, “she’d look at me sadly and say, ‘Oh.’ ”

Nevertheless, she writes, Mrs. Thatcher still has periods of lucidity and can remember details about her tenure as prime minister, which lasted from 1979 to 1990, and stories from the past.

Writing in The Daily Mail on Monday, Amanda Platell, a former press secretary for William Hague, who served as Tory leader from 1997 to 2001, said she looked at Ms. Thatcher’s revelations as a betrayal.

“I don’t know how Carol can believe that by writing this book she is contributing anything other than prurience to her mother’s personal and political legacy,” Ms. Platell wrote.

NYTimes

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