Readers respond to Polly Toynbee’s piece about dementia and quality of life for those with the disease

After 35 years working with people with dementia, and having a father who has had Alzheimer’s disease for the past five years, I find it hard to be certain that I know what people with dementia are thinking and if they judge life in the same way as before they had dementia (Why do we keep people alive against their wishes?, 29 May). Their lives are certainly different from ours and what theirs once was, but are they “empty husks”? Katharine Whitehorn is no longer a journalist, mother, friend, etc, and my father is no longer a veteran, great-grandfather etc; they can no longer recall any of that, and it is distressing for us who remember them as such to see that and the loss of their ability to care for themselves, but is it equally distressing for them? What is their experience of this new reality? That is a much harder question because we can only observe from the outside.

The people I’ve seen seem to have very varying experiences of dementia. Some appear very distressed, others relatively happy, and this experience can appear to vary greatly both from person to person and from...


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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".