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 174.

    Im afraid yet another political knee jerk reaction to a very real Dementia needs better therapy and recognition but as a retired doctor who has treated patients with dementia this initiative will put mild sufferers off visiting their GP who will be paid by the Government for diagnoses, and will not be of any use to those with severe disease .Wrong(political) solution to a right problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    If this is just about increasing awareness then why is this being taken outside of the NHS ?
    Why not awareness campaigns like there are for bowel cancer/ flu jab etc. Or if they want to have informed people in the community then why dont they give the training to £1million relevant NHS staff (who would need it for their jobs anyway) and get them to raise awareness?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    @ 37. my experience of professional carers (state) is that they are awful. All they do is feed tranquilisers (resulting in falls, hospital visits etc). They don't understand the importance of diet, walks, conversations etc. I agree you need help - but doesn't necessarily have to be professional. State carers are scared of being sued so they just confine person to sofa/bed & tranquilise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Not everyone is good at caring. You need to be friends with them at their level - have midnight conversations about crazy things, live in a weird world about you. Which is impossible alongside a normal life. However some people thrive on this and don't mind being weird - they are worth their weight in gold.
    p.s. Bornfromabove.. feed Berocca daily (higher vit B will stop the aggression).

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    This 'Big Society' idea comes from the American Republican's greed-creed of tax-saving for rich tax payers by shifting care cost onto the goodwill of the community. It doesn't work for the needy of America, and it won't work here. The last time a tory government adopted Reagonite ideology, they were out of government for a decade or more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    This is patently a cheap way of getting care from people with emotional ties to the afflicted.Just wait until the private sector contractors deliver shabby short training at great public expense...

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I would rather the money went to the wonderful admiral nurses who helped my mother nurse my late father and who are sorely underfunded and rely on charity.

    If anyone needs training about dementia it's the nurses on general wards of the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Less funding for mental health provision but hire unpaid "Friends"?

    Are we to become a "Society of Friends" and then take our country into a Republican direction with "Real Freedom" for citizens?

    It figures. When no answer to problems you are charged to deal with, obfuscate into inanity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I think the only people the Conservative party seem to be concerned about are, umm well (and I say this as a transsexual) were not allowed to say are we (well not the wealthy ones anyway!). They certainly aren't concerned about people with dementia, because an ex-psychiatric nurse who did this it took all my training and degree level quals, all my strength and all my willpower. Voluntary work!!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    A million people and over a billion hours of time and effort.

    The goevernment would be better dealing with issues of
    prevention - activities that keep people's mind active for longer
    cure - research (currently being cut)
    Euthanasia - many would prefer to have an option to choose to die

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    So I volunteer, sit and listen to a lecture, get my free badge and it looks like the Government is doing something.

    Policy on the cheap again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    So we are supposed to exercise daily, work hard, read our kids, while tackling anti-social behaviour, taking care of elderly parents. Of course we are also advised to sleep enough not increase our own risks.
    As if this was not already very difficult, they want us to cope with dementia.
    Once again politicians are completely detached from reality, to the point that they forget a day is 24hours...

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    For a decent quality of life we must ditch the sociophobic conservative party forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Awareness training should be a part of any workplace induction programme.If every employer took proper ownership this would be at minimum cost.If however this then becomes a campaign to devolve public sector services to 'charity' services such a programme will fail. More money needs to be invested in those affected by it, including their carers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I think people here have missed the point. This isn't about training lay people to deliver direct care . Its about having people in local shops, supermarkets, on public transport, in restaurants etc with a level of awareness and this difficulties people with dementia face on a daily basis, so they can help people and their families who use those community facilities, if they need it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Another crackpot save money idea from a government i thought would do some good ! amateur policmen , amateur Soldiers , GS4 running prisons and the olympics oh no the troops had to step in , we will see amateur Doctors soon . i know we are in a mess but come on , get some tax of the dodgers and stop the illegals at the door , make folk who have not paid in to our system pay . and shut the gate .

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    I hope Dave is tuning into this debate with his new app.
    He will perhaps find the human story is not held in facts and figures.

  • 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 156.

    David Cameron has not ,or ever will be ,at the sharp end of this illness. Even if it happened in his family, with his money they would have the very very best of nurses and medical care full time to help keep every thing smooth in his and his immediate family.The Cons do not want the state to be responsible for anything and thereby get their own personel tax bill down as low as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    #53 Catrina

    If you knew anything at all about dementia you'd know this is not a party political issue but about the need for well trained professional care for those suffering with this disease. The fact you don't only serves to confirm you as the idiot here.


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