August 26, 2008 in Nation/World

Dementia afflicts Britain’s Thatcher

By Kevin Sullivan Washington Post
 
Alastair Grant photo

Thatcher
(Full-size photo)

LONDON – The daughter of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher said Britain’s “Iron Lady” is suffering from dementia, the family’s first public confirmation of what has been widely rumored in Britain for several years.

Thatcher’s condition has deteriorated so much that she forgets that her husband, Denis Thatcher, died in 2003, her daughter said in a memoir that is to be published next month and was serialized over the weekend in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

“I had to keep giving her the bad news over and over again,” Carol Thatcher wrote. “Every time it finally sank in that she had lost her husband of more than 50 years, she’d look at me sadly and say ‘Oh’ as I struggled to compose myself. ‘Were we all there?’ she’d ask softly.”

Carol Thatcher said she first noticed her mother’s failing memory over lunch in 2000, a decade after she left 10 Downing Street after leading Britain from 1979 to 1990.

“I almost fell off my chair,” wrote Thatcher, a journalist and television personality. “Watching her struggle with her words and her memory, I couldn’t believe it. She was in her 75th year but I had always thought of her as ageless, timeless and 100 per cent cast-iron damage-proof. From the fateful day of our lunch, tell-tale signs that something wasn’t quite right began to emerge.”

Margaret Thatcher, now 82, earned a reputation as a bare-knuckled premier while leading Britain through severe labor upheavals at home and the 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Britain’s only female prime minister was a close friend and ally of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union.

Thatcher’s Conservative Party ultimately tired of her stewardship and pressured her to resign in 1990. She remained an outspoken fixture in public life for years, but largely retired from view after a series of small strokes in 2002.

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