TVU Student is John Suchet's 'life-raft'

Ealing student and psychiatric nurse Ian Weatherhead helps put dementia at the top of the health agenda

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Television reporter John Suchet and his wife Bonnie's  Admiral Nurse Ian Weatherhead


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For practical help, support and guidance relating to dementia please contact the Admiral Nursing DIRECT national helpline on 0845 257 9406, manned exclusively by Admiral Nurses on Tuesday daytime 10 am - 4 pm, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 6pm and 9pm, or email queries to You can also visit the website

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"My Bonnie has gone, it's as if she has died." That's how TV reporter John Suchet described his wife's early onset dementia. And now, with the help of Ealing student Ian Weatherhead he is campaigning to help others facing the same horror.

For the past three years, the television presenter, author and Beethoven scholar kept his wife’s condition from all but family and close friends. Even now, her own ignorance of what is happening to her causes him misgivings about the rightness of his decision to go public. He fears that it may seem a betrayal or a discourtesy, “because I am not the one with the disease. It is my darling Bonnie who has the disease.”

“There are times when I want to bury my head in my hands,” said John. “When I persuade myself she would be better off without me because I’m crap at handling this. You have suicidal moments.”

He says his life raft is Ian, a psychiatric nurse from the charity For Dementia and (also through the charity) Jim, a retired teacher from Bolton whose wife also has dementia. They share experiences, good and bad, and talk “as men” about the slow attenuation of their relationships and the loss of intimacy. “I am so fortunate. I have derived so much benefit from these people,” he said.“I want others to be aware what help there is.”

Ian is one of just 60 specialist dementia care nurses working in England and Wales. John Suchet's case has given him the opportunity to raise public awareness of dementia and highlight the important work of the Admiral Nursing Service and the charity, for dementia, which supports their training and on-going professional development,

Admiral Nurses are registered community mental health nurses specialising in dementia care. They provide practical support to improve the lives of those with dementia and their carers. They work in partnership with other health and social care providers to enable optimum care.

Ian, 48, has worked in nursing for 33 years. He is studying for an MSc in Advancing Practice at Thames Valley University where he intends to research the way pain suffered by dementia patients is assessed and managed. He said, “This course is invaluable to my current role as an Admiral Nurse, develops my knowledge professionally and is a personal challenge that I am really enjoying.”

Since John Suchet talked publicly about dementia and the work of the Admiral Nurses, the charity, for dementia, and the Admiral Nursing DIRECT national helpline have been overwhelmed with requests for help and support from carers, patients and practitioners. Since 17 February the helpline has seen the number of calls increase ten-fold. “John has personalised dementia and brought it to a wider audience, and people now feel more able to reach out for help,” said Ian.


April 3, 2009