Miriam Margolyes opens up about her late father’s ‘utterly devastating’ battle with dementia

Jan 19, 2024
Margolyes made the heartbreaking admission in support of Alzheimer's Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity. Source: Getty Images.

Renowned actress Miriam Margolyes, known for her iconic roles on both stage and screen, has candidly shared the heart-wrenching journey of her late father’s battle with dementia, describing it as “utterly devastating.”

Margolyes, 82, spoke passionately about the challenges her father faced as he navigated the relentless grip of dementia in his early 90s. Reflecting on the early signs, she revealed, “When my father developed his symptoms in his early 90s, I had a feeling that something was wrong, but I tried to push it away.”

Reality struck when concerned neighbours reached out, revealing that her father was wandering, disoriented, on their doorstep.

“I realised he couldn’t be left on his own anymore and that Alzheimer’s – I didn’t know what it was then – but the illness that had taken hold of him had a vice like grip, and my father was no longer the man I knew,” Margoyles said, as per the Daily Mail

“It was utterly devastating.”

Describing the painful progression of the disease, she shared that her father “became more and more of a shell and a husk” but that “every now and again” she would be treated to “glimpses of the Daddy” who had cared for her for so many years.

“It wasn’t fair because he was a good, kind, loving man and he just seemed to disappear in front of my eyes. I couldn’t deal with it – I didn’t know what to do or who to ask,” she revealed.

The actress also opened up about the impact of her father’s dementia on their relationship.

“Unfortunately as you get older and when illness strikes, the whole basis of your relationship changes. Dependency changes, expectation changes, capacity changes,” she explained.

Margolyes made the heartbreaking admission in support of Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity.

Margolyes is no stranger to health struggles herself, disclosing late last year that she now possesses a “cow’s heart” after undergoing major heart surgery.

She was hospitalised in May 2023 for a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a specialised surgery aimed at replacing a narrowed and partially obstructed aortic valve.

During her hospitalisation, Margolyes, known for her wit and charm, also revealed her battle with a chest infection which extended her stay in hospital.

During an appearance on the Table Manners podcast with Jessie and Lennie Ware, Margolyes opened up about her operation and revealed that she now possessed a “cow’s heart”.

“Well, not the whole heart. I’ve had an aortic valve replaced by a cow’s aortic valve,” she said.

“I don’t know how common it is. I’d never heard of that operation. But it saves you from having open heart surgery, which would be infinitely more invasive.”

She went on to explain in further detail the nature of the surgery.

“They made two little holes in your groin. One in each groin and then they shoved this thing through,” she said.

“And I don’t know how they pull it up but they sort of pull it up with stereos. And then when it comes to the point, when it’s in your heart, they pull a little string and it goes pow!

“And lo and behold, your artery or your aortic valve is shoved unceremoniously to the side.”

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