How dementia changed John Suchet's life

John Suchet

For millions, John Suchet was the face of ITV News for more than 30 years, but his own personal story is one of devotion, despair, fury and frustration.  

Still very much in love after 25 years of marriage, TV newsreader John Suchet was horrified to discover, in 2006, that his adored wife Bonnie had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 64.

Within months he found himself transformed from lover and companion to carer and home help.

It was a scenario every middle-aged and elderly couple dreads, and it placed an enormous strain on them both.

Low point

The low point came shortly before John reluctantly decided the time had come for Bonnie to go into full-time residential care. He was due to leave their London flat to do some filming at ITN when Bonnie suddenly needed urgent care.

Their combined anger, panic and frustration escalated into physical assault.

‘The guilt was overwhelming,’ John writes in his recently published book, 'My Bonnie: how dementia stole the love of my life'. ‘If our roles were reversed and Bonnie was looking after me, she’d be making a better job of it. I did reach a stage where I thought she’d be better off without me.’

John was pulled back from the brink by the intervention of an Admiral Nurse, Ian Weatherhead, a trained healthcare professional with specialist knowledge of caring for dementia sufferers. Unlike the widely available Macmillan Nurses who help cancer victims and carers, there are only 70 Admiral Nurses in the whole country.

Losing his temper

‘They concentrate on the carer,’ says John. ‘Ian helped me understand my behaviour, that it was OK to lose my temper. It worked for me having a man because I could say anything to him, man to man, and use the kind of language I wouldn’t have used with a woman.’

Now Bonnie is being looked after by full-time carers. She still recognises him, knows his name and wells up when she sees him approach. Yet John is amazed that she has never questioned either her condition or her relocation to a care home.

‘Since she went into the home in September last year she hasn’t asked me where she is, why she isn’t at home, nothing. And yet, if she were here now, you wouldn’t know to look at her there was anything wrong with her.’

John wrestles every day with the impossible situation of grieving for someone who is still alive and fully functioning. Judging by his pained expression and hesitancy to talk about it, the whole concept of ‘moving on’ is not one he is willing or able to embrace.

However he is determined, in his newly acquired role as patron of opens link in new window opens link in new window Dementia UK, to raise the profile of Admiral Nurses. To this end he has helped establish the Admiral Nurse Academy, which Dementia UK is naming in honour of Bonnie Suchet. The academy opened officially in May 2010.

John Suchet's book: My Bonnie'My Bonnie: How dementia stole the love of my life' by John Suchet is published by HarperCollins.

To find out more about Admiral Nurses visit opens link in new window opens link in new window the Admiral Nurse Academy or opens link in new window opens link in new window Dementia UK websites, or call Admiral Nurse Direct on 0845 257 9406.

Your Age NI

Set your location to see what Age NI offers in your local area.

Age NI Advice:
0808 808 7575

Ageing Well videos

Health and wellbeing publications

  • Guides and factsheets aimed at keeping you informed on information surrounding Health and Wellbeing publications.

    View all Health and wellbeing downloads Help with downloads

    Downloads

    What is a download?

    A download is a document (like a research report, a leaflet, or an application form) that can be transferred from our website to your computer. You can download a file, view it on your screen, print it, or save it to your computer.

    What is a PDF?

    PDF stands for ‘portable document format’.

    Most downloads on this website are PDFs. We use this format to ensure that the document looks the same on everyone’s computer (website pages, by contrast, appear differently depending on how people have got their computer set up).

    How do I download a PDF?

    Computers use a program called Adobe Acrobat Reader to download PDFs. If you try clicking on a link to download a PDF and it doesn’t work, you will need to install Adobe Acrobat Reader onto your computer.

    How do I install Adobe Acrobat Reader?

    The process is quite straightforward and is free.

    1. Go to opens link in new window opens link in new window http://get.adobe.com/uk/reader/
    2. Click ‘Download’.
    3. Wait for the window to offer you the option to ‘Run’, then choose this option.
    4. Click ‘Next’.
    5. Click ‘Install’
    6. Wait for the window to offer you the option to ‘Finish’, then choose this option.

    How do I change a download?

    PDFs cannot be changed. If you need to be able to type into a downloaded document (for example, if we are offering a letter template that you need to put your name on) we will provide it as a Microsoft Word document rather than a PDF. You can then download it, type into it and save it to your computer.

    How do I print or save a download?

    Downloads will open on your computer in a new browser window.

    Inside this window (below all your web browser menus), there will be a toolbar with options for you to print or save the document.

    Close the browser window to return to the Age UK website.

    Can my screen reader read PDF downloads?

    We have made every effort to make our PDFs accessible to screen readers. Here is an overview of your accessibility options available in Acrobat Reader. Please ensure that you have downloaded the latest version of Acrobat Reader from the Adobe Reader website to ensure that they are included in your version of the programme.

    You can use Adobe Reader to read a PDF out loud with the following shortcut keys:

    • Read the document: Shift +Ctrl+Y
    • Read the open page only: Shift +Ctrl+V
    • Read to the end of the document: Shift+Ctrl+B
    • Pause: Shift+Ctrl+C
    • Stop Shift+Ctrl+E


    You can also convert a PDF into a web page by following these steps:

    • Copy the URL (web address) of the document (right-click on the link and select ‘Save target as’ or ‘Copy link’).
    • Open the Adobe online conversion tool in your browser and paste the URL into the URL box.
    • Tick the HTML box on the Format option and click ‘Convert’.


    You can convert a PDF document into a text file for use with other software and hardware such as Braille printers by opening the PDF and choosing ‘Save as text’ from the File menu.

Two people talking

Tell us your story

Share your first hand accounts of issues or problems that older people are experiencing in relation to public services.

Share your story

Useful websites

Close window
Display options

Set the appearance of this website so you can read it more easily

Text size

Background/foreground


To see information relating to England, Scotland or Wales set your preference below: