DementiaMental HealthNews

Tributes Paid to Author And Dementia Campaigner Wendy Mitchell

Tributes have been pouring in for the late Dr Wendy Mitchell, who was diagnosed with dementia and spent years documenting her experience, and who has died aged 68.

The best-selling author was also an Expert by Experience at the University of Bradford.

A letter published posthumously on the author’s blog on Thursday said “if you’re reading this, it means this has probably been posted by my daughters as I’ve sadly died”.

The mother-of-two, from Yorkshire, was diagnosed with early onset dementia aged 58 in 2014.

I hope I have shown others never to give up on themselves… I want to say to people with dementia, ‘You’re capable of doing more than you think.’

Wendy, from Beverley, East Yorkshire, was In given an Honorary Doctor of Health by the University of Bradford in 2019. In June 2023, she was named in the King’s Birthday Honours, having been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to People Living with Dementia.

In her touching blog, Which Me Am I Today?, she explained: “What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.”

Her final post was entitled: My final hug in a mug…

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon said: “Wendy’s passing is a sad loss to us all and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and close friends.
“She was a courageous woman who faced her fears head on, and in so doing she became a symbol of hope for thousands of people across the world who are living with dementia.

“She worked with us as one of our ‘experts by experience’ and helped shape and transform how students, academics and practitioners understand and treat dementia.
“She was an insightful, inspirational and intellectual influencer who led with a passion only possible because of personal experience.”

Clare Mason, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies, said: “Wendy Mitchell, who was one of our Experts by Experience, had lived with dementia for over 10 years, and was hugely committed to the work of our Centre and the wider University.

“I was lucky enough to have worked closely with Wendy on lots of our projects and learned so much over the years from her kind, but honest insights. I felt lucky enough to be able to call her a friend.

“Since I heard of Wendy’s death yesterday at lunchtime, I’ve met with many friends and colleagues, to share memories of Wendy, as she touched so many different people in different ways. I’ve also heard from many of our students who were inspired by her words and motivated to change their thoughts and practice in dementia care.

“We were delighted when Wendy achieved an honorary doctorate at the university and was then named in the King’s Birthday Honours last year. As Wendy often told us, when people receive a diagnosis of dementia, there is life to be lived, hers was absolutely a life very well lived. Wendy also urged us to talk about death and dying.
“I feel this is one last thing we can do for her, to keep that conversation going and hopefully change will eventually happen to give people with dementia the choices they deserve. We are all thinking of Gemma and Sarah, Wendy’s daughters at this time.”

Wendy was also a bestselling author of three books: Somebody I Used to Know, What I Wish People Knew About Dementia, the latter in collaboration with writer Anna Wharton, and One Last Thing: How to Live with the End in Mind, published in June last year. In July, she spoke at Bradford Literature Festival.

In one of many interviews, Wendy said: “I hope I have shown others never to give up on themselves, because no one knows what’s around the corner or what opportunities might come your way. But also, sometimes you have to go looking for those opportunities.

“I want to say to people with dementia, ‘You’re capable of doing more than you think. It’s only other people telling you you can’t. I’m telling you, you can.”

 

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