An author who used to live in Enfield before moving a stone’s throw away to Potters Bar, enabling her to stay close to her mother, has written a book about the year’s she spent looking after her.

Dementia Diva - Tales and Tips from a Survivor was initially a private diary by Jane Kerr Wood, recording events during the years she cared for her mother who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 89, and died a few days before her 95th birthday in 2015.

Jane came to feel that sharing her thoughts might help others in similar situations.

The book is adorned with illustrations created by Jane, who used to teach watercolour painting at Oaklands College in St Albans.

We spoke to her to find out more about her story and the book…

Times Series:

Tell us about Dementia Diva

It’s an easy read, there’s no medical terms. It’s a comic memoir of cartoons and diary entries so it is a light read. Hopefully it is encouraging with regard to using humour to try and cope with what is a really difficult situation.

It effects of many aspects of your life, looking after someone with deteriorating memory. It felt like I was in prison for years and the guilt, oh my.

I have tried to hone in on the situation of the guilt. How bad you can feel when you have negative thoughts about the person you love, that you’re caring for but you’re finding it difficult. It’s natural. I’m trying in this book to encourage people to be more open about it and share the way they’re feeling. I think it helps survive what is a very difficult time.

Did your mother know you were writing a book about her?

Mum knew I was working on writing a book about her but unfortunately she died suddenly just as I had finished the first draft. I think she would have loved all the attention.  She had always had a role amongst friends and family as an amateur psychologist when they had problems and needed advice, so I am sure she would love the idea her story in this book might prove helpful in opening up what is quite a difficult subject.

Why did you title the book Dementia Diva?

Mum was a strong willed feisty female before she became ill, but no drama queen. She loved being at home with her pets and had relatively simple tastes. I dreamed it up to make the book sound fun and light hearted as the subject matter can be a bit scary for many people.

Since it was published a few months ago I have had feedback that it is just as relevant to other brain conditions, for example Parkinson’s disease. I now see I am probably loosing readership and should have called it something with a wider appeal like The Reluctant Carer.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Writing a diary was part of my coping mechanism, a sort of therapy. I would jot down incidents that happened, looking for the amusing angle. Seeing the changes in her behaviour with humour was my way to cope.

The diary grew over the years and I started to see that some of the incidents were funny enough to be cartoons. I am an artist so I took out my watercolour paints. Putting my thoughts and ideas on paper about the problems faced as a carer led me to thinking maybe sharing these experiences would be helpful to others in a similar situation.

Was it easy seeing the humour in dementia?

No….but in my view you must try! It was often a situation of laugh or cry as so many of the things shocked me or made me very sad at the time they happened. My mum and I were very close and I loved her dearly, yet the changes in her personality and behaviour often tested me to the limit and I began to feel resentment and despair at being trapped in the role of carer. Being open and honest about this is important as too many carers are isolated and feel very guilty about their dark negative thoughts. Hopefully my little book will encourage more discussion about this. 

You mention “laughter therapy” in the book. What is it?

What is your top tip for carers?

Read my book of course! Actually there isn’t just one top tip as every carer’s situation is different and there are many forms of dementia and progress through the disease depends on the individual. I share the various strategies that I found helpful in my book and the best way to read it is as a “pick and mix” where you can dip in and take from it what you need. There are nine chapters in the book covering all sorts of things. For example, hugs and the power of touch, making a life story book, using photographs, keeping healthy, depression, using labels and diagrams…and even “Having a final fling”, a chapter about losing inhibitions.

Published by Perton Press. Available from and stocked by Alphamarque in St Albans, AL4 OAZ.