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TV's Suchet reveals all about wife's Alzheimer's battle

PUBLISHED: 15:58 23 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 07 September 2010

Bonnie and John Suchet

Bonnie and John Suchet

Sanchez Manning AFTER breaking down during a live BBC interview about his beloved wife's battle with Alzheimer's disease, John Suchet received an avalanche of sympathetic emails from around the world. The veteran newscaster, who lives in Baker Street, say

Sanchez Manning

AFTER breaking down during a live BBC interview about his beloved wife's battle with Alzheimer's disease, John Suchet received an avalanche of sympathetic emails from around the world.

The veteran newscaster, who lives in Baker Street, says he has been overwhelmed by the response to the revelations about his wife Bonnie.

He decided to reveal her plight after much soul searching in a bid to raise awareness of the still much misunderstood condition and the help that is out there for families of sufferers.

Mrs Suchet, 67, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease three years and three days ago this week and it changed the couple's intimate 26-year relationship forever.

"She's still my sweet, lovely Bonnie. Even now she's calm but our conversations are childlike," said Suchet.

"Before she held down a high-powered job for years and it was her who first taught me to use a computer and Word.

"She's lost her interest in all these things now but she's not sad. We just live on a different level now. But I know what's gone and so it me that hurts really."

The 64-year-old former ITN news anchorman and now quiz show presenter on Channel Five admits it's been a massive uphill struggle for him and his whole family since his wife's diagnosis.

Her grown-up children from her first marriage are full of concern for their mother but also worry whether they too will develop dementia in their old age.

Mr Suchet has been equally thrown, if not more so, by the unexpected turn of events and has been busy dealing with his own demons.

But living in Westminster, he has been able to seek help from mental health nurse Ian Weatherhead who works for Admiral Nurses, a support service for family's dealing with dementia.

Mr Suchet has expressed disbelief at the "postcode lottery" which means thousands people across Britain will not be able to access this same specialist help. There are only 70 Admiral nurses in the UK and none at all in Scotland.

For the newscaster, Yorkshire-born Mr Weatherhead has been his rock.

"I go to see him in his office, email him and speak to him on the phone," he said. "He's always there for me.

"I remember the first time I exploded in anger over a build-up of trivial things. You put it right quickly - I smiled and then Bonnie was smiling.

"I explained what happened to Ian and promised it wouldn't happen again and he said, 'Oh yes it will.' And it did. But he helps to lift the guilt."

Mr Weatherhead has returned the compliment by praising Mr Suchet for the way he has coped with his wife's erratic behaviour.

He has tried to educate the devoted husband in how to care for his wife and says Mr Suchet has been a fast learner.

"Sometimes it can be looking at practical issues on managing behaviour, so if Bonnie is putting a dirty plate into the cupboard that hasn't been washed, it's not the end of the world," said Mr Weatherhead.

"It's about teaching carers not to respond to things like that and not to get into arguments because arguments are futile with people with dementia. They can't understand that they have done anything wrong."

o Admiral Nursing Direct's helpline is 0845 257 9406 or email direct@fordementia.org.uk.


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