Dame Sheila Hancock fears dementia after suffering terrifying memory loss on set

Dame Sheila Hancock fears a potential affliction with dementia after suffering a full day on set on her new Sky series where she was unable to recall any lines.

Frightened, the 87-year-old worried about the prospect of “not being able to remember anything and your brain panicking and trying to find the words” if she were to develop the disease.

“It was terrifying,” she admitted.

Fortunately, her memory and ability to recall her lines returned the next morning, while filming Sky 1’s A Discovery of Witches, but she explains to Radio Times, the experience made her think about dementia.

The actress has now instructed her daughters to place her in a Quaker nursing home to relieve them the burden of caring for her if she developed dementia, and the condition was to render her unable to look after herself.

Dame Sheila Hancock fears a potential affliction with dementia after suffering a full day on set on her new Sky series where she was unable to recall any lines

The actress, given a Damehood in the New Year’s Honours, has practiced the religion since the 1980s.

She tells she enjoys their silent hours as: “I talk too much and I don’t listen or pause to think.”

Sheila was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis three years ago, which could potentially cause life-threatening problems. She previously told friend Gyles Brandreth that she feared she could only have months to live.

Fortunately, her memory and ability to recall her lines returned the next morning, while filming Sky 1’s A Discovery of Witches

“This wasn’t to do with my illness – although you can die of it and I do have to think about that – but just at my age, you’re unlikely to live many more years and that weighs heavily if, like me, you’re greedy to learn new things,” she tells the magazine.

She adds that despite not believing in an afterlife she believes her husband John Thaw, who died in 2002, will be waiting for her.

The actress has now instructed her daughters to place her in a Quaker nursing home to relieve them the burden of caring for her if she developed dementia

“When I think about the friends who’ve died, and sadly there’s a lot of mine, there are certain people you can virtually see,” she says.

“I can see John. I can see him standing there.

“I do think that people leave ‘vibes’ behind, and the best that I can hope is that I leave a few good vibes, as well as the bad ones.”

The new issue of Radio Times is available now.

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