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 114.

    A million badges at approx £1 each is a million pounds that could be spent on research into this dreadful condition which would be a damned sight more useful to the patients suffering from it. If people can't train to be more aware because they care without getting a badge as a reward at the end of it they shouldn't be training in the first place. Gimmicky and needless cost

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    The trouble with this govt is that they see everything as a PR opportunity - this is nothing more than a "tick - dementia sorted" column. They just want to be seen to be doing things rather than tackling this major issue in a serious manner. The can find £12m for their pet Political projects like Boundary changes, but are giving a paltry £2.4m to this!
    Yet cutting the NHS & lowering morale!

  • 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".

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    @75 'John'
    I agree with this poster that more documentaries should be made to inform the public of the signs of dementia. The condition is complex and often develops unrecognised. Earlier diagnosis and thus early treatment can slow down it's progress.

    In addition, the isolation/ loneliness of carers is seriously under-estimated as their life retreats with poor availability of respite care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Many of the comments on here are quite rightly pointing out that dementia care is not an area for amateurs, however well-intentioned, so as a plan to cope with the spread of the affliction, it is likely to fail.

    However, if the plan leads to a more widespread understanding of the difficulties faced by dementia patients and their families, it may (inadvertently) help.

  • Comment number 109.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Care and respect for the elderly is shockingly lacking - at least this program brings attention to this awful condition.

    There's tons of ££ raised for kids by programs like "children in need" - why aren't there similar programs for the elderly? Maybe it should be "people in need"? The elderly are more likely to be alone anyway. Just a thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    'He/she' isn't the person I married' or 'that isn't the man who was my mum,/dad' How often is that said? As a retired nurse I can say it is said in almost all cases. Dementia is one of the strongest motivators I know for people to make 'living wills' while they can. How many caring people actually want to end up like this and be kept alive for years causing untold pain to their families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I USED to work in a Day Hospital for the elderly mentally ill providing a service for both patients & carers. We were highly skilled dealing with situations that arose in home or the Hospital. Along came the cuts & the first thing to go were Day Hospital's (Patients can't fight & carer's are too exhausted). I & colleagues like myself no longer work for the NHS, so how is this scheme going to work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    @68. budgiebird

    The site you visited may have been Disabled People Against Cuts but if you had taken the time and trouble to read the article, you would have seen that their information was based on information from the DWP following a FOI request by Sonia Poulton, journalist who writes in the Daily Mail.


    The sad thing is that you actually believe that made up nonsense. Think about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Utter hypocrisy! Govt touts support for Dementia sufferers, yet SAME government been quietly shutting Specialist Dementia Care Homes past 3 yrs! Got family & a friend, specially trained, qualified, worked for years in local Authority Dementia Care homes, suddenly told homes being shut, patients moved out, staff made redundant.
    THAT's reality of this government's 'care' for Dementia sufferers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    There are thousands of so-called 'dementia friends' around already who have a vast array of knowledge and experience of this terrible disease. They are called CARERS. They have no training, checks or guide books and they don't wear a badge. They train on the job as they go along because they have no choice. My dad is still doing it aged 77 until the current system grinds him down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Comment 55 is so true. My parents' life savings have been taken by the state to pay for the disease that my mother is suffering from - Alzheimer's. They had to sell their house to pay for care that should be provided by the NHS for free. That's what we pay our taxes for.Money needs to ploughed into research and fully funded care for sufferers to relieve the terrible pressure they are under.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    This is another government soundbite so people talk about this, and not about something they are trying to hide. It is coming up to the week-end and as usual they are trying to "bury bad news" that they don't want people to notice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Another 'sound bite' policy from this uncaring govt. People who suffer from dementia need familiarity, not strangers: they often are very frightened if people they don't recognise apprach them, even if they want to help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Sounds a good idea, but what about the cost? There will doubtless be masses of paperwork, CRB checks, extra checks, possibility of law suits and therefore masses of insurance...
    These aren't 'needed' but are the outcome of the society that has been created over the last 20 or so years - suspicion, court cases and general distrust of anyones motives. Put myself at risk of accusations - no chance

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    @92 ll Pirata

    Any help is a great help, especially if you are tied to your house 24/7 because you are frightened to leave or sleep incase they go wondering, go to the toilet in the wrong place, hurt themselves etc. Just that 1 hour can make a massive difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Close encounters of most stressful kind for people w dementia & their carers - visits to GP & A&E, clinical assessments, home care staff changes, new day care facility - & long term situations such as hospital assessments & care home provision - these are the encounters that must be improved by ensuring all healthcare staff are trained to respect the person, not just understand the disease.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    1.Although ageing and AD are related,evidence suggests that they are distinct conditions, so AD is NOT INEVITABLE WITH AGE.2.A key factor in not having AD is absence of extensive B-amyloid.
    What Cameron 'says' and what he 'does' are different.
    Cameron is dismantling the Welfare State and the NHS to steal our resources for his corporate buddies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    My mum had vascular dementia. It was obvious when she was 83. However, looking back there were signs of it 3-4 years before, but I didn't realise. I thought she was just getting old and her behaviour had always been a bit difficult at times anyway. Having more awareness and people who are able to spot the signs amoungst people they spend time with would help.


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