Timothy West reveals Prunella Scales’ “painful” battle with dementia

"This person that I’ve loved doesn’t really exist any more – that’s quite painful"

Timothy West has revealed that his wife Prunella Scales suffers from “a sort of mild Alzheimer’s.”


In a new documentary series for More4, the 79 year-old actor – who is currently playing Danny Dyer’s screen dad in EastEnders – talks movingly about his wife’s dementia.

“When you think back over a long period and you think: this person that I’ve loved…doesn’t really exist any more, it’s another person – that’s quite painful. But you mustn’t think like that. You must just take it from day-to-day and you just notice how much she’s able to do and how much she enjoys life.”

“Her sense of humour is still there,” he continues. “And we have a lot of fun. She’s just growing old in a certain area more quickly than either of us would like.”

The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last October with a trip down the River Thames on a paddle steamer. In their forthcoming series, Great Canal Journeys, they’ll navigate Britain’s waterways on a narrowboat.

“[Pru] can’t remember things very well, but you don’t have to remember things on the canal. You can just enjoy things as they happen – so it’s perfect for her.”

Prunella – who is 81 and best known for playing Sybil in Fawlty Towers – says the “slight condition” is a “nuisance sometimes”.

“Most people my age have memory problems,” she subsequently told RadioTimes.com. “I’m perfectly alright. It just takes longer to learn my lines.”

Yet she’s determined not to let it keep her from the stage. “I always say I want to die on the eighth curtain call. Eight will mean the show’s been rather a success. I just hope I’m somewhere near the middle and have been reasonably good in the part.”

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, has applauded the couple’s courage in speaking out: “It’s always sad to learn that a much-loved public figure is living with Alzheimer’s, and this news will have touched the hundreds of thousands of families across the UK who are facing a similar struggle.

“The couple have helped bring dementia into the spotlight, in turn helping to tackle some of the stigma that still surrounds the condition.”

Read the full interview with Timothy West and Prunella Scales in this week’s Radio Times.

Great Canal Journeys begins Monday 10 March at 9.00pm, on More4