Million 'dementia friends' wanted for training


Health secretary Jeremy Hunt launched the 'dementia friends' scheme in central London

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The government wants to train a million people in England by 2015 to become "dementia friends", able to spot signs of the illness and help sufferers.

It is part of plans to raise awareness of the condition, which affects nearly 700,000 people in England.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said dementia is a national crisis and awareness of it is "shockingly low".

The number of people with dementia is expected to double in the next 30 years because more people are living longer.

The government is launching the Dementia Friends scheme, which has been adapted from a similar programme in Japan that recruited three million volunteers.

Dementia signs

  • Struggling to remember recent events
  • Problems following conversations
  • Forgetting the names of friends or objects
  • Repeating yourself
  • Problems with thinking or reasoning
  • Confusion in familiar places

Sessions in workplaces and town halls across the country will explain what dementia is, what it is like to have the condition and what people can do to help if they meet someone with the symptoms.

It is hoped that charities, businesses and the wider public will get involved.


The prime minister said: "We cannot underestimate the challenge we face in dealing with dementia in our country."

He has already promised to double the research budget for the disease to £66m by 2015.

"There are already nearly 700,000 sufferers in England alone, but less than half are diagnosed and general awareness about the condition is shockingly low.

"Through the Dementia Friends project we will for the first time make sure a million people know how to spot those tell-tale signs and provide support.

Dementia school

At Swanhurst Secondary School in Birmingham, a class of 14 year old girls are about to meet a couple coping with the devastating toll taken by dementia.

Ruby Jones was a midwife and nurse. Now she needs constant care, provided by her husband Emerson. He tells the girls how it is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week commitment.

He has to help her get dressed, remind her to eat, answer her repeated questions. Ruby herself tells the girls that the condition has totally changed their life.

This is part of a national project in schools in England to raise awareness among young people of dementia. Ruby and Emerson did their best to answer the questions posed by the girls.

No one left the class room in any doubt that life after a diagnosis of dementia can be very tough for both the patient and the carer.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said he wanted the country to be "one of the best" places for dementia care in Europe.

He said: "Too many people with dementia feel cut off, lonely and fearful without the support and understanding they need."

"People with dementia and their carers should never feel barred from everyday activities like shopping for groceries or spending time with friends.

"We are putting in place plans to make next year a year of raising awareness of dementia."

Dementia Friends will be given a forget-me-not badge. The scheme will cost £2.4m.

The chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, Jeremy Hughes, said: "We want to rally a million people behind the cause of helping make a better life for people with dementia.

"I am confident we will not only meet this target but beat it. Dementia is everyone's problem and we all need to be part of the solution."

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "At a cost of £23bn a year to the UK economy, we all agree that dementia is not a problem we can ignore. Finding treatments for Alzheimer's and other dementias is no easy task, but it's one we must tackle if we are to make a real difference to people's lives."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    This is a cause close to my own heart, as my brother contracted Alzheimers at 61. As such, I am always desperately keen to learn of any positive developments in the field of dementia. But despite having listened attentively to Jeremy Hunt on this morning's Today program, I am none the wiser as to the point of training a million people to do.....what, exactly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    looking after someone with dementia can be a threat to one's own health, mental and mother in law had parkinson's related dementia and needed a lot of help ,in the end over 2 years of full time care day and night,the cost including in the end threatened the future of our whole family and the stress has probably shortened my life.I was never more relived when she died.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Speaking as one with a lot of experience of dementia (2 relatives over many years) I think the only people who really understand the condition are those who are, or have been, coping at the sharp end. Even a good many professionals don't really understand the day-to-day realities. Any 'friends' need to be those who truly understand, not just well-meaning people who've had a bit of 'training'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Maybe the money would be better spent training people how to look after dementia patients and what to expect from them. I know from experience what it's like to live with someone with Alzheimer's and they can be very aggressive, but the next moment they don't even know what they did. I noticed carer's that came in getting angry with him, but he really didn't know he'd done anything wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Yet another back of the fag packet idea from this incompetent, and out of touch govt. They have no idea what dedication, trust and empathy is required by those close to sufferers to be able even to think about helping such individuals. Anything this govt can do on the cheap it is all for it. They have already raided the NHS budget by £1bn. Need professionals trained, not just "friends".


Comments 5 of 11


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