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Margaret Thatcher - An Alzheimer's Victim

An Associated Press article appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on 25 August 2008 under the heading: "Iron Lady's Memories Grow Dim." The article quoted excerpts from a new book authored by her daughter Carol Thatcher and to be published in the UK on September 4th, 2008.            


Margaret Thatcher“Carol Thatcher charts her mother’s decline – and describes the day in 2000 when she first understood her mother was being robbed of her memory...I couldn’t believe it,” Thatcher said in a section published by the London Mail on Sunday. “She was in her 75th year. But I had always thought of her as ageless, timeless and 100 percent cast-iron damage-proof.”


Thatcher said her mother – who is now 82 – used to have a memory “like a website” but that dementia, combined with a series of mini-strokes, opened “a new and frightening chapter in our lives.” “What was most galling was that there was nothing I could do: this cruel disease takes its own course" she said.


The AOL News on 26 August 2008 also carried and item on the same subject under the heading: “Britain’s Thatcher Suffers from Dementia.”

The following is quoted from that article – “Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – once known as one of the world’s most formidable political minds – has been suffering from dementia for the past several years according to her daughter, Carol.” The woman who had dominated discussions for so long could no longer lead debates or keep up with the thread of a drinks-party conversation, she wrote.” On bad days, she could hardly remember the beginning of a sentence by the time she got to the end.


Stan’s Comments 

It is often estimated that 70-80% of all dementia symptoms are caused by Alzheimer’s. Based on the described symptoms and the disease statistics, it is probable the Margaret Thatcher had Alzheimer’s.

There is a suggestion that Margaret Thatcher's symptoms may have resulted from a series of small strokes that she had in 2002. However her daughter documented her memory problems in the year 2000, fully two years prior to the strokes. There is also the prevailing theory that Alzheimer's is at work in the brain for 10-20 years before the first symptoms of the disease appear. It has been suggested that two other common forms of dementia may have been involved...Vascular dementia and or Lewy Body disease...I have had close up experience with all three and the symptoms here very closely follow Alzheimer' is clearly not Lewy Body disease.


After the death of her beloved husband Denis in 2003, after 51 years of marriage, grief stricken, she was said to have slipped into depression and her mind deteriorated further. Carol her daughter recounted in her memoir that later her mother often forgot that her husband Denis had died... “I had to keep giving her the bad news over and over again. Every time it finally sank in that she'd lost her husband of more than 50 years she would look at me sadly and ask softly, “Oh. Were we all there?”.


There is however earlier documentation to the start of  her Alzheimer's in 1996-1997 year..."Then, abruptly, at the end of 1996, her aids detected an uncharacteristic mental frailty in the iron Lady. She began to repeat herself in discussions. But it was not just that her famed mental powers were dimming. Lady Thatcher was having difficulties with her hearing as well. Only her intimates were permitted to know that there was anything wrong with her...'She could no longer follow an argument from beginning to end,' said one close friend. 'She would lose the point halfway through. It was very confusing for her and unsettling for us. It was hard for everyone. The hearing loss exacerbated the problem"


The length of her Alzheimer's disease from beginning to termination was unusually long...approx. 17 years. (1996/97 - 2013) has been said that the length of the Alzheimer's disease may vary from two (2) years to twenty 20 years. The average is  eight (8) years. I have been studying this disease and have been in close contact with those who have it for 18 years now and I have never seen a case that ever went for twenty (20) years. Baroness Thatcher's 17 years is the longest such case coming to my attention. She truly was an "Iron Lady." President Reagan went for 10 years, Charlton Heston was less than six (6) years, my mother Ellen was six (6) years and my close friend's wife was fifteen (15) years. June went for about twelve (12) years from start of her symptoms.



Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan


Margaret Thatcher was a close ally and friend of President Ronald Reagan. They were said to be close both philosophically and politically. It is a tragic coincidence that both became victims of Alzheimer's disease. She once said of Reagan that he was the:


"Second most important man in my life." 


Reagan had said of her that she was:


"The best man in England ." 



Very little has been said of Baroness Thatcher's religious faith in the London news media...This is strange as she was a very devout Christian of the Methodist faith...her religious faith has roots in her early family life...her father was a Methodist Minister...this quote will serve to give a flavor to her religious beliefs:


"We must not profess the Christian faith and go to Church simply because we want social reforms and benefits or a better standard of behavior," Thatcher told the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1988, "but because we accept the sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ."


Thatcher at Reagan's coffinThe Baroness Thatcher also mentioned the common religious faith with President Reagan as she ended his funeral eulogy by speaking of his Alzheimer's illness and ending on a note of faith:  


"For the final years of his life, Ronnie’s mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted. He is himself again, more himself than at any time on this Earth, for we may be sure that the Big Fellow upstairs never forgets those who remember him. And as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven’s morning broke, I like to think, in the words of Bunyan, that "all the trumpets sounded on the other side."


When President Reagan died 5 June 2004, Baroness Thatcher was not able to attend the Washington funeral as she herself was well into her own battle with the same disease. She did however manage to briefly visit Reagan's casket while it was resting in State at the capital rotunda on Wednesday June 9th 2004. See photo on the right...


She also arranged to have a touching and lengthy eulogy broadcast by video from London where the Baroness Thatcher read it to the world. It is now available on "U Tube". The funeral was held at the Washington "Cathedral" on June 11th, 2004.


Margaret Thatcher is the second British Prime Minister to come down with Alzheimer's. Harold Wilson was the first.


Before coming into public life, Margaret Thatcher studied Chemistry at Oxford University but then changed course and went on to become a lawyer.


Her term of office as Prime Minister was the longest in the 20th centrury. She was also the first female Prime Minister of England. (1979-1990)




The BBC television program "The Daily Politics" asked viewers in 2007 to select their favorite Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher topped the list with 49% of the vote, with Clement Attlee coming second with 32%.[




Reagan and Thatcher 

 Monday 8 April 2013 - Associated Press- London reported the death of Margaret Thatcher at age 87:


“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning…”

Excerpts from the Associated Press story of Margaret Thatcher’s life and her death follow…

“Love her or loathe her, one thing's beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain. The Iron Lady who ruled for 11 remarkable years imposed her will on a fractious, rundown nation _ breaking the unions, triumphing in a far-off war, and selling off state industries at a record pace. She left behind a leaner government and more prosperous nation by the time a mutiny ousted her from No. 10 Downing Street.



(Photo on right is Reagan and Thatcher having friendly meeting on the deck outside the Oval Office in Washington on 17 July 1987)


Thatcher was the first and still only female prime minister in Britain's history. But she often found feminists tiresome and was not above using her handbag as a prop to underline her swagger and power. A grocer's daughter, she rose to the top of Britain's snobbish hierarchy the hard way, and envisioned a classless society that rewarded hard work and determination…

Like her close friend and political ally Ronald Reagan, Thatcher seemed motivated by an unshakable belief that free markets would build a better country than reliance on a strong, central government. Another thing she shared with the American president: a tendency to reduce problems to their basics, choose a path, and follow it to the end, no matter what the opposition.

She formed a deep attachment to the man she called "Ronnie", some spoke of it as a schoolgirl crush. Still, she would not back down when she disagreed with him on important matters, even though the United States was the richer and vastly stronger partner in the so-called "special relationship."…

She was underestimated at first by her own party, by the media, later by foreign adversaries. But they all soon learned to respect her. Thatcher's "Iron Lady" nickname was coined by Soviet journalists, a grudging testament to her ferocious will and determination…

…her economic philosophy eventually crossed party lines: Tony Blair led a revamped Labour Party to victory by adopting some of her ideas.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on Oct. 13, 1925. She learned the values of thrift, discipline and industry as the dutiful daughter of Alfred Roberts, a grocer and Methodist lay preacher who eventually became the mayor of Grantham, a modest-sized town in Lincolnshire 110 miles north of London.

Thatcher's personality, like that of so many of her contemporaries, was shaped in part by the traumatic events during her childhood. When World War II broke out, her hometown was one of the early targets for Luftwaffe bombs. Her belief in the need to stand up to aggressors was rooted in the failure of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's attempt to appease Adolf Hitler rather than confront him.

Thatcher said she learned much about the world simply by studying her father's business. She grew up in the family's apartment just above the shop….

"The economic history of Britain for the next 40 years confirmed and amplified almost every item of my father's practical economics. In effect, I had been equipped at an early age with the ideal mental outlook and tools of analysis for reconstructing an economy ravaged by state socialism."

Educated at Oxford, Thatcher began her political career in her mid-20s with an unsuccessful 1950 campaign for a parliamentary seat in the Labor Party stronghold of Dartford. She earned nationwide publicity as the youngest female candidate in the country despite her loss at the polls.

Thatcher and husbandShe was defeated again the next year, but on the campaign trail she met Denis Thatcher, a successful businessman whom she married in 1951. Their twins Mark and Carol were born two years later.


(Photo of the happy husband and wife team on the right.) 


"She was beautiful, gay, very kind and thoughtful," Denis Thatcher said in an interview 25 years later. 

As the first male Downing Street spouse, Denis Thatcher stayed out of the limelight to a large degree while supporting his wife on her many travels and public engagements. He was said to give her important behind-the-scenes advice on Cabinet choices and other personnel matters…


Stan's Comments on the Thatcher Marriage 

Baroness Margaret Thatcher's husband Denis died 26 June 2003 at age 88 from Pancreatic Cancer. It is reported that Margaret Thatcher's remains were to be buried at Chelsea next to those of her husband of over 50 years!..."buried near her husband at the infirmary, which she officially opened in 2009...The Margaret Thatcher Infirmary enabled the Royal Hospital Chelsea to admit women for the first time and provide respite care for RN and Air Force veterans alongside the ex-soldiers it houses.

Denis and Margaret first met in 1949 and were married 13 December 1951. Their marriage ended with the death of Denis on 26 June 2003, some 6 months short of their 52nd anniversary.

In her autobiography, Margaret wrote:

"When Denis  asked me to be his wife, I thought long and hard about it. I had  so much set my  heart on politics that I hadn’t figured marriage in my  plans...‘But the more I considered, the surer I was.  More than 40 years later I know that my decision to say “yes” was  one of the  best I have ever made." 

She once commented: "I couldn't have done it without Denis. He was a fund of shrewd advice and penetrating comment. And he very sensibly saved these for me rather than the outside world."

"I think the marvelous thing is that he gives me a sense of perspective. If I am upset or think I have done something silly, we talk about it and he makes me see sense."

He in return said with almost touching modesty: "I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could produce, small as it may be, was love and loyalty."

There was talk of their marriage being strained in the early days of the 1960's while Denis was undergoing a nervous breakdown. His previously successful business was undergoing problems. He categorically denied that his wife, their marriage or her career was the cause of the nervous breakdown...he retired from his business and then he made a full recovery from his health problems. He next turned his attentions to his wife Margaret's career...he took up a full time position as his wife's adviser and  consort...thereafter their marriage soared.


Associated press excerpts:

She survived an audacious 1984 assassination attempt by the Irish Republican Army that nearly succeeded. The IRA detonated a bomb in her hotel in Brighton during a party conference, killing and injuring senior government figures, but leaving the prime minister and her husband unharmed.

…she suffered several small strokes that in 2002 led her to curtail her lucrative public speaking career.

Denis Thatcher died the following year; they had been married more than a half century.

She suffered from dementia in her final years, and her public appearances became increasingly rare.

She is survived by her two children, Mark Thatcher and Carol Thatcher, and her grandchildren.”



June and the Margaret Thatcher Connection

I am sure that June would have loved Margaret Thatcher…Ronald Reagan was a favorite of June’s over the years…even though June was deep into her Alzheimer’s when President Reagan died 5 June 2004, I remember she clipped and saved the front page funeral story from the Minneapolis Star – Tribune…Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were close friends and I could not believe that June would not also have a fondness for Baroness Thatcher. While June's beliefs and values were those of a conservative she was not one to speak or discuss politics. She liked people for who they were and not necessarily what political party they were from...both Ronald Reagan and Baroness Thatcher's views on life were very much in line with June's own beliefs...I know she admired Reagan's religious convictions as June was strongly religious and the church was a most important part of her life. It is also obvious that the Baroness Thatcher's religious views tracked very closely with June's.

There are close parallels in the Thatcher and Berg marriages. The Baroness Margaret met her husband Denis in 1949 and they were married in 1951. Their marriage lasted until the death of Denis in June of 2003 just 6 months short of their 52nd anniversary. June and I met in May of 1951 and were married in August of 1952. June passed on from Alzheimer's in October 2008 after we had completed 56 years of marriage.

June 1990June also loved the British Isle’s and had good friends (Joan and Gordon Bruce and their 2 children) at Bexley, Kent just south of London…friends she made during our forensic visit to England in 1972…London became June’s favorite city and she visited it 8 times including her final farewell visit in 1999. June literally watched the Bruce children grow up over the 27 year span of her visits to their home.

The Baroness Thatcher’s early symptoms were noted in 1996/1997. It was also in the year 1997 that June became concerned with her short term memory and brought the subject up to her doctor of Geriatrics at her annual physical examinations in December of 1997…this resulted in a referral to the University of Minnesota for testing in January 1998. The result was a diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s.

June passed away almost 11 years after her diagnosis by the University of Minnesota but about 12 years after her first symptoms of short term memory loss...while many persons would go into denial if faced with such symptoms, june did not and wanted to know what was going on...June ended her journey into the darkness of Alzheimer's on 23 October world will never be the same...June left an emptiness that can never be filled!



     Reader's Comments


Amy Stiel Almas  - Waterford, Michigan - (8 April 2013): "Very interesting.  I had no idea about alzheimer's disease being present."

Merideth Sindel - Sydney, Australia - (8 April 2013): "So Margaret Thatcher is gone. I'm glad her sufferings are over now. I hated the movie 'Iron Lady' mainly because I think to make a movie about somebody with dementia when they are still living it was such a selfish and ineligant thing to do. Imagine if you'd been caring for her and you were constantly trying to shield her from the ads. It would have been a nightmare for her daughter. That made me very sad for them both. She was a very controversial leader but it is always a sorrow to see the suffering that dementia inflicts."

Catherine Jones-Hatcher  - Richmond, Virginia - (9 April 2013): "As usual, you have done a wonderful job presenting this information. I admired her as well. I was surprised that the news reports I saw made no mention of her battle with Alzheimers. This disease reaches all corners of the world , and takes anyone it can get. Thanks again for your continuing effort to educate us all about it and its reach."

Lynette Richards  - Hindhead, United Kingdom - (10 April 2013): "Thank you Stan for the link to your tribute and interesting story about Margaret Thatcher and Alzheimers. I've always been interested in her claim that she never slept more than 4 hours each night for years and years. Quite remarkable especially as we know how a stressful lifestyle can make us tired. There's much controversy about how much sleep we need but many think that sleep deprivation can have a detrimental effect on health."

Christine Ann  Williams  - Kingston upon Hull, United Kingdom - (11 April 2013): "I was never a Tory Stan...But terrible to see another strong mind destroyed by the dreaded AD it is so sad ...I saw her on the news feeds over the last months  and could spot it ...Not the same Thatcher by far... she will be having the same State funeral  as Churchill  and the only second prime minister that the Queen has attended the service of... After all she was the first woman  to be in power ...I have enjoyed my visit to Junes page Stan, interesting reading as always."

Beth Ann Doucette  - Lino Lakes, Minnesota - (10 July 2013): "Very nice, Thank you for sharing."

Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Inc.  - Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador - (11 July 2013): "Thank you so much for sharing! Very interesting; sometimes it helps to see people in the public eye who are going through the disease to let people know that they aren't the only ones who live with Alzheimer's. -Amelia White, Events Coordinator."

Julia Nedland  - Prairie Farm, Wisconsin - (11 July 2013): " - there were people throwing parties when they found out she died (sickeningly disrespectful no matter who has died - ... someone who loves them and are heartbroken at their death). I cannot imagine the pain her family felt  to have that happen, especially after slowly losing her for 17 years to what I consider to be the worst disease on the planet."

Buddy Bear  - Dublin, Ireland - (12 July 2013):"Stanton did you watch the movie " The Iron Lady?" I only watched it recently and did not like, it portrayed her badly it just focused too much on her alzheimhers and not in a realistic way, my thoughts anyway."

Dianne Cogar  - Springfield, Ohio - (12 July 2013): "Stan, around every corner in your life, it seems, you find a link to your beloved June and the suffering you and she endured. Your writing is always so beautiful, and meaningful, and insightful to say the least. Sometimes I think you have an even  bigger calling awaiting you than the one you represent in your life today."

Lynette Richards  - Hindhead, United Kingdom - (12 July 2013):"Brilliant...and thank you for all the work you have applied to writing this essay on Mrs T. And I now realise the course of her illness is so very similar to my Uncle's. He passed away on June 20th this year."





June's Passing

June 1994

June had battled Alzheimer's for almost 11 years when God took her home on 23 October 2008.  June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - or Click on:

"June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam"