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 34.


    It would be great to see some positive posts here for a change instead of the usual moaners , this seems a good idea and lets look at it like that."

    I agree, but the Govt shouldn't put people in the position where they have to "moan" about things like this.

    DC / the UK Govt should be ashamed for having to have this "initiative". I suspect they don't really give a T***

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Cameron and his chums once again implementing their stealth tactics to shirk responsibility for the nations health.

    If he could he'd privatise the lot tomorrow so that government was no longer accountable for health services.

    It is the government's duty to provide the BASICS for society. Without them (water, gas, electricity, transport, health care) how can people make a life for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    There are few human advances that have not resulted in creation of numerous other costly problems
    This never ending race to extend life duration is unsustainable & damages younger & future generations via need for huge quantity of resources to be transfered to manage old age issues.

    I would rather experience & enjoy my danger choices such as smoking & live shorter but more enjoyable life

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Great to get others involved and raise awareness and support.

    However equally NHS/Social Care needs a large boost

    Most importantly research massively needs it, beyond what is already pledged; given that less than 10% of Alzheimer's is genetic, we don't even know what causes it...

    How about more into prevention as that will save money as well as lives and misery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    My mother-in-law developed dementia, but anyone who didn't know her would not realise, as she could carry on a perfectly lucid conversation. She would talk complete rubbish, bearing no resemblance to actual events, but even doctors took what she said at face value. It is vital that health professionals are given more training in spotting and understanding the condition.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    It would be great to see some positive posts here for a change instead of the usual moaners , this seems a good idea and lets look at it like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    All Mr C's big society plans do are make people feel guilty into doing voluntary work when actually these are paid jobs. Where is the income, how can you pay your bills ? It seems alot of public sector jobs are now voluntary yet my council tax hasnt been reduced ! They must think we are bloomin stupid !

  • Comment number 26.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Training volunteers is a good idea but, what kind of people will volunteer? Will they come from all backgrounds and all communities or just from leafy Britain? We need properly qualified staff in nursing homes and hospitals and education in schools and the workplace to create understanding and prevent abuse. Those who care at home should receive a proper wage because they save the NHS millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    More "lip service" from David Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Lovely to see that this has been highlighted. We are currently working on a Documentary with the wonderful people at Dorrington House They are able to put on entertainment for the residence on a monthly basis. To make this a weekly event as it makes the world of difference, at just £60 a week, this should be possible. Please see

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Even with dementia I'd like to stay until the end of my given days and consider any euthanasia hoisted on me to be nothing short of murder. There is no burden here and it should come natural to look after the old and frail without requiring a badge. This like so many quick fixes has the potential to backfire by absolving the majority of their social responsibility, and common humanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    You will find it is very hard to look after someone with dementia as most sufferers are very frustrated by thier plight and get aggressive when you try to help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    You are dreaming. On BBC Breakfast they were testing public response to bicycle theft, everyone ignored what was happening. Same with Epileptic fits, Diabetic shock..It will be the same with dementia. Very few of us have that samaritan spirit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    What a caring man that Mr Cameron is.

    Pity he does not show the same care about the 73 people per day who are dying following assessments by ATOS passing them fit for work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    yet more resources thrown at the babyboomers.
    Seriously if you're under 40 get out of B ritainbecause they're looking to empty your wallets completely, throw you onto the streets to live so they can keep house prices high and genrally drive you into abject poverty so they can live beyond the country's means.
    Young people get out of Britain ASAP of you want a decent life with opportunities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Oh God, here we go again, "Care in the Community," rubbish. These people need compassionate around the clock care, not something just done on the cheap. Does anyone in government think before they open their mouths?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Here's a come we use our GPs to do the over-paid job they are meant to and spot these dementia medical problems themselves. In my experience, ours wanted little to do with an elderly neighbour displaying all the classic signs and symptoms of advanced dementia, leaving him free to drive and become physically agressive with his wife and neighbours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Sounds like a government way to cut costs for the NHS
    It will be a good thing as long as the government do not use it as a cost cutting measure


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