Tuesday 20 August 2019

Hume's wife tells of his struggle with dementia

John Hume with his wife Pat, who has spoken of his struggle with dementia
John Hume with his wife Pat, who has spoken of his struggle with dementia
John Hume and his wife Pat on their wedding day in 1960

Garrath Murphy

The wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume has called for greater awareness of dementia after speaking for the first time about his struggle with the condition.

Ms Hume said her 78-year-old husband "is having severe memory difficulties at the moment" and is not interested in travelling far from their home in Derry any more.

Her husband, one of the main architects of the northern peace process, first became ill in the late 1990s when he was speaking at a conference in Austria.

"Unfortunately, John is having severe memory difficulties at the moment. He has a form of dementia," she said.

"It hasn't actually taken away all his quality of life, in that Derry is a very dementia-friendly city. People love John. He can go out for a walk. Every taxi in the place will stop for him... I can go for a walk myself. He can do his crosswords. He can enjoy the paper. So it could be worse."

She told Miriam O'Callaghan on her RTÉ Radio 1 programme: "His memory is very bad. If John was speaking to you now and I said to him in half an hour, 'It was lovely to see Miriam', then he would say, 'Where did we see Miriam?' He just wouldn't know that he'd seen you."

The comments were part of a wide-ranging interview about her 55-year marriage to John Hume and her contribution to a new book 'John Hume - Irish Peacemaker' published by Four Courts Press.

Asked if her own role as John's carer is difficult, she replied: "It can be very tough. Especially at the end of the day, when somebody asks you the same question 20 times and you're giving the same answers, and it's very hard to get up the energy to be pleasant, so it can be tough. I am very blessed in that I have a daughter in Derry who is a doctor and she keeps a very good eye on him."

She added: "For a man who travelled the world non-stop, he doesn't like being away from home now. He loves Derry.

"One of the things that I would love to see is a greater knowledge of being dementia-friendly - dementia-friendly workplaces, dementia-friendly cities. Because the illness is getting very common."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section