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 154.

    I totally agree. My gran has had advanced Alzheimers for over 15 years. We get some help from carers but not enough and the strain it puts on the family is huge. My Mum's in her late 60's & I worry that the stress of looking after her is shortening her life. For example, she fights everytime you try to take her pants off to go to the loo as she doesn't understand. It's so hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    looking after someone with dementia can be a threat to one's own health, mental and physical....I was never more relieved when she died."

    That is so terribly sad, and yet completely understandable too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Fresh from "call me Dave" but forgets his own child at his local pub.
    Who paid for that fiasco?
    We did....
    Your a total hypocrite, the entire government is.
    Roll on that election, i cannot wait to see the back of you, i wish they would all 'get me out of it, i'm a celeb' and directly head-first into a cess-pit.
    Words cannot contain my anger at these people.
    Liars the lot of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    This sounds like another idea that has not been properly thought through.
    I was appalled to see a representative for Alzheimers and the wife of a patient citing a possible 'helping' scanario as being to step in when a sufferer is having difficulty at a cash machine.

    A perfect invitation to criminals to lay in wait for suffererers and relieve them of their card, pin number and/or their cash .

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Replace professionals with amateurs?
    Unpaid labour.
    Yet another crackpot idea from this pathetic, inept government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    I've traveled the complete Alzheimer's journey as a carer for my wife. The final five years I chose to complete on my own in our own home. Up to that point the so called professions were involved. When I took her home she was less than five and a half stone with pressure sores, immobile and lacked speech. She was given just days to live. That proved wrong, she survived 4yrs and 8 months.

  • 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 146.

    Every day I like to go for a walk, and I could easily call in and take some one with me, a child, an elderly person etc.
    But I have a feeling that these days it would not be so simple. I`d have to be checked and double checked and referenced and so forth.
    Not worth the hassle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    :( That doesn't surprise me too much, but its really unethical! Did your daughter put in a complaint to the jobcentre, they might not be aware of what the company are doing

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Interesting comments on here regarding amateurs vs professionals.

    In my opinion the most illustrative is the role of the NSPCC.

    This charity takes millions in donations each month & doesn't appear to provide the protection claimed.

    Where were they in the Saville era and all the other systemic cases ?

    Should we allow these amateurs to handle the most abhorrent scenarios imaginable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I have nothing but respect for anyone who would volunteer...but I would only sign-up if this was paid work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Following #138 ...

    And at the end of the 12 week 'placement', her "Guaranteed" job didn't even EXIST: she and 20+ others from the course were told they had to go back and sign on at the job centre. The company who had (mis)used these "Apprentices" for 12 weeks went back to the JobCentre and hired another team of sacrificial lambs to slave for the next 12 weeks at the same rates of pay ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    This is an Alzheimer's Society initiative, with taxpayer funding.Why is the Alzheimer's Society hiding behind government?What's going on here?

    GPs can't identify signs of dementia, care home staff aren't trained, & this scheme won't help.The Alzheimer's Society is in the pocket of government & care providers to such an extent it's forgotten where to find its voice. Dementia deserves better.

  • 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 139.

    An absolutely disgraceful idea of the tories to try and farm out nursing in this way.

    This work should be done by the NHS and the NHS only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    "One million Dementia friends" and "increasing the participation of our Reservist forces" [ = the TA]
    BOTH cheapskate schemes designed to get "volunteers" working for NOTHING instead of PAYING someone to do the job.
    Last year's "flagship" Modern Apprenticeship scheme had my daughter working 48hrs/wk for 12 weeks, and she was paid £2.76/hr
    How stupid does this Government think we are???

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I have been doing "demetia friends" for yearsas I cared for my husband for 15 years on my own with no help from government. Every relative of dementia sufferers can tell the government that this is not a new idea and if they had taken notice of these people years ago they maybe will have ordered better training for staff of nursing homes where my husband ended up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    From experience of the appaling treatment my father received in local hospitals the first people that need training are nurses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    125.yorkshiremum We definitely need more awareness of neurological disorders, it would be really hard for an amateur to tell the signs of dementia with minimal training!. it would be good to have a campaign to educate everyone about these conditions, not just volunteers and health professionals, so they are in a better position to help


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