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'My beloved husband had gone. He'd become my child':

jimbo 111

Registered User
Jan 23, 2009
North Bucks
'My beloved husband had gone. He'd become my child': Call The Midwife's Judy Parfitt on how she had to watch her husband live with dementia for ten years
Judy Parfitt, 80, plays Sister Monica Joan in Call The Midwife
Struck down by dementia, her character went missing
The actress's real-life husband Tony died of dementia 15 years ago
Here she makes an impassioned plea for more help for carers

Judy was widowed almost exactly 15 years ago and misses her husband, actor Tony Steedman, pictured
Tony died a decade after being diagnosed with vascular dementia, a condition caused by problems with the supply of blood to the brain. Although she misses him, life with Tony in those last years was painfully hard. She still vividly recalls the moment she realised there was something wrong. For a few years he'd been struggling to learn his lines. He'd forget things and seem confused; but then he'd always been a little bit 'scatty'. Then one day Judy and Tony had a meeting with their accountant. 'They'd always got on well but then Tony suddenly started talking about things that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand,' she recalls. 'It was like someone had thrown a bomb into the room. That's when you think, "Oh. I see."'
Judy was determined to care for Tony at home. 'The doctor said, "You won't be able to keep him at home because he might get violent." I said, "Tony's never been violent and he won't start now." The closest he came was when I was getting him out of the shower once, and he snapped and said, "Don't pull me!" That, from Tony, was like being slapped in the face. The way I dealt with it was I thought, "Well, my husband is gone, now I have this child that I love greatly that I have to look after." Your husband becomes your child. I remember one day this terrible panic arose in me. But then I told myself, "I can't go on like this, I'll be no good to him or me. This has to stop." So I pushed it to the back of my mind. I knew if I went down that path I wouldn't be able to cope. The stress becomes a way of life.'
People don't know how to deal with dementia. It frightens them
As someone who not only knows what it's like to care for someone with dementia, but as an actress who portrays it on television so movingly, she's a natural fit for Dementia UK's Time For A Cuppa campaign to raise money for Admiral Nurses who specialise in dealing with the condition. 'It's lonely being at home with someone with dementia,' says Judy. 'Particularly if you don't have any children. Most people don't know how to deal with dementia. It frightens them. If somebody talks rubbish to you, you have no experience of how to deal with it. You have to go into that person's world. It would have been wonderful for me to have had the help of one of these amazing nurses who not only know how to help the person with the dementia but also the carer; someone who understands what the carer is going through.'
There are 850,000 people in the UK with dementia; a number that's expected to rise sharply as the population ages. 'I remember a nurse saying to me, "They'll have found a cure for this in five years" when Tony was ill,' says Judy. 'That's a long time ago and we still don't have a cure, partly because there aren't enough people giving financially. Not enough attention is drawn to it, but it's a problem that's getting bigger.'
Another of Judy's old friends, Prunella Scales, has spoken candidly on the radio about her dementia. Judy says she thinks about Pru when she plays Sister Monica Joan, who's lucid at times but then disappears into her own world when she's stressed or ill. 'After I've played a scene I think a lot about Pru,' she says. 'If you met her and didn't know she had dementia you might not think there was anything wrong with her. But it's no secret that she's had problems for well over ten years. I think it's great she's talking about it. Dementia is still a bit like cancer used to be - when no one would say the word. People are frightened but you have to bring it out into the open and make people realise that with help we can find something to alleviate the suffering and pain that dementia causes.'
To find out more about Dementia UK's Time For A Cuppa campaign go to timeforacuppa.org. For advice about dementia call Admiral Nursing Direct on 0800 888 6678 or email direct@dementiauk.org

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/a...nd-live-dementia-ten-years.html#ixzz3xRLIsdqG


Volunteer Moderator
Aug 31, 2003
I found that very interesting. I really recognised her description of having deeply loved her husband and then having an adult child she loved greatly. I think describes my situation exactly.


Registered User
Apr 30, 2013
This so describes where we are on our journey now. We are into year 6 and it's become like having a naughty 10 year old. My lovely husband is watching snooker and doesn't understand what is going on and he so loved to watch it. I'm taking him away tomorrow for a few days so hoping we both enjoy the break. He wants to go to bed now but wants me to go with him as he does all the time. I'm so tired and have so much to do still. We will have to get up at 7 so we can be ready to go by 10. It takes that time to shower him, get him dressed properly (so he doesn't put his jumper on before his shirt or trousers on inside out lol). Then there's breakfast and the usual toilet issues. Please don't let it snow overnight. We can still have a laugh sometimes about things but those occasions are getting rarer sadly. Bless you all.


Registered User
May 10, 2010
Thanks Jimbo. Most interesting, and so many parallels with what many of us experience and feel, and much more.

Your beloved husband or wife does indeed become your child. Not only the caring aspect but the fierceness of your protection of them.

Loo x