How dementia vote harvesting potentially swung Brexit

At the time of EU referendum, my mother was one of 850,000+ dementia sufferers in the UK. In 2016, she did not know her own name nor those of her children, yet despite being born in Italy (the daughter of a British diplomatic secretary), being fluent in both Italian and French, having a grandson who was born in the Netherlands, and not having power of attorney over her medicine or money – she was apparently able to vote to leave the EU. When I quizzed her privately owned nursing home about this, it turned out that it was common practice for a member of staff to “enable” their clientele to vote. I was also told that “most of them” wanted to leave.

My Mother passed a year ago, and would have been devastated to know that she had contributed to Brexit. Although I have been unable to find the exact figures for voters with Alzheimer’s (and/or dementia), this could have simply swung the vote, as follows:

EU Referendum votes in 2016:
Electorate = 46,501,241 – Turnout = 33,551,983 votes cast (72.2%);
Leave Votes (17,410,742) = 37% of the electorate
Remain Votes (16,141,241) = 35% of the electorate
Non voters = (12,949,258) = 28% of the electorate

Potential Alzheimer’s adjustment (+/- 850,000):
Leave votes (16,610,742) = 35.7%
Remain Votes (16,941,241) = 36.3%

When (in 2016, after the EU referendum) I found out that My Mother’s vote had been harvested, I contacted the C.A.B. and basically People with dementia retain the right to vote. According to the Alzheimer’s Society ( ) “The Mental Capacity Act, which provides a framework for making decisions on behalf of people who lack capacity to make a decision, does not apply to voting. This means that a lack of mental capacity does not stop someone from being able to vote. It is up to the person to decide if they want to vote“.

In 2016 my Mother didn’t know her own name or that of her partner of 50 years (or that he had passed away 20 years previously), yet she could somehow understand the nuances of the EU debate, and decide that she wanted to vote? I think not.

Whilst my Mother was alive I could not pursue this, as members of her Tory run council in the south of England (responsible for electoral services) were also on the board of her care home, and raising red flags could have been detrimental to her care. I have not yet found any figures for numbers of the voting electorate with dementia, and it’s almost impossible (and I wouldn’t want) to judge a persons mental capacity in this respect, which is why I can only speak from personal experience – but 90% of all those over 65 voted (by far the largest age demographic).

I guess there must be a number of people out there who feel that there elderly relatives have been similarly “used”, but I’m not sure how to find them. Although this can’t now alter our path (even though the referendum itself is not legally binding), it does shed light on the failings of our (so called) democracy.