Sheila Hancock in ‘terrifying’ dementia scare: ‘Panicking and trying to find the words’

Sheila Hancock: I don't want to be a burden for my children

Dame Sheila Hancock, 87, has recalled her dementia fears after she went through a day of “not being able to remember anything”. The A Discovery of Witches actress admitted she had “a day-long brain-freeze” while filming the new Sky 1 fantasy drama series in Wales.

While opening up about her dementia scare, Sheila also revealed she can’t remember anyone’s name and has developed a habit of calling everyone “darling” as a result of her confusion.

She explained: “People in my business do call people ‘darling’ a lot, I’m afraid.”

Fortunately for the Carry On Cleo star, she found she was back to her normal self the next morning.

However, her struggles to remember her lines did raise her concerns about dementia.

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Dame Sheila said: “Not being able to remember anything and your brain panicking and trying to find the words. 

“It was terrifying,” the actress admitted in this week’s Radio Times.

It comes after the star said that if she did get get diagnosed with dementia, she would go to a Quaker nursing home in York, as she wouldn’t want her daughters to be put through the burden of caring for her.

She explained: “They don’t like the idea but have accepted it. 

 

“I would loathe them seeing me like that especially if I couldn’t recognise them – I wouldn’t want them near me.”

The star added: “I don’t want to be a burden to my daughters. 

“Having nursed two husbands and my mother, which nearly killed me, I know how stressful being a carer can be.”

Sheila has two daughters: Melanie, from her first marriage, and Joanna, from her 29-year marriage to actor John Thaw, plus her stepdaughter, Abigail Thaw.

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Dame Sheila admitted she is “a bit of a loner now” after losing two of her loved ones to cancer.

The star said: “I’m not very good in crowds. I don’t like big parties. I can’t do dinner parties because I can’t cook. So I don’t join in a lot. I’m a bit of a loner now. 

“When John [Thaw] was alive, I didn’t want anyone else – I didn’t need anyone else. 

“And the same with Alec [Ross, her first husband, also an actor].” 

Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times [RADIOTIMES]

Thaw, tragically died of oesophageal cancer in 2002, aged 60 after Ross died of the same disease in 1971.

The actress will be returning to screens this month, as she is playing Goody Alsop A Discovery of Witches.

Sheila’s character is an Elizabethan leader of witches, who teaches fellow witch Diana Bishop (played by Teresa Palmer) how to make the most of her potential.

Speaking about the role, she said: “I was terribly excited because I thought she was going to be an evil, horrible person and I imagined… [she twists her features grotesquely and cackles] all that, which would have been gorgeous.” 

Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times – out now.

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