Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister and great friend of Ronald Regan, has dementia. Lady Thatcher’s daughter Carol has published a book called ‘A Swim-on Part in the Goldfish Bowl-A Memoir.’ In the book Carol describes the first time she realized her mother’s memory was beginning to fail. She says, “The realization came as a thunderbolt. I almost fell off my chair. Watching her struggle with her words and her memory, I couldn’t believe it.”
Carol Thatcher first noticed the symptoms of dementia in 2000. Since then Lady Thatcher’s memory has deteriorated further and Carol describes how she has reminded her a number of times that her husband Denis, died in 2003. They had been married for more than 50 years. She describes the poignant moment, “Were we all there?” Lady Thatcher asked.
Former President Ronald Regan also had dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s disease. Regan was the 40th President of the United States. He died of pneumonia, a complication of Alzheimer’s disease, in June 2004 aged 93. It is probable that Margaret Thatcher’s dementia has a vascular cause. She has had a few small strokes in the past.
Lady Thatcher, now aged 82, still shows flashes of her old self, often when talking about past political events when she was still in office. Short term memory loss is much more obvious in someone with dementia.
Lady Thatcher is still able to discuss contemporary politics, according to her former political secretary, John Whittingdale. He adds that she does have to be reminded on occasion.
The sad fact is that the number of people affected by dementia is increasing as more and more people are living longer lives. It has been estimated that up to 1 in 3 people over 65 in developed countries will die with dementia. Symptoms of dementia can include confusion, mood changes and problems with speech and understanding. The total worldwide societal cost of dementia, on the basis of a dementia population of 29.3 million persons, was estimated to be US$315.4 billion in 2005.