Following the recent attention on dementia and the G8 Dementia Summit (check out my blog The G8 Dementia Summit – A Missed Opportunity) I have been reflecting on my short time as a Dementia Champion for the Dementia Friends Initiative.
Increasing prevalence of dementia
There are now over 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this will triple over the next 30 years. One of the most worrying statistics is that 1 in 3 of us will get dementia at some stage in our life and the rest will feel its impact from a friend, relative or someone they know who is living with dementia.
The UK is not alone. Dementia has become a worldwide problem and there has been a growing number of towns, cities and communities worldwide striving to better meet the needs of their older residents living with dementia.
Lack of awareness, fear, stigma and misunderstanding
I have found a lack of understanding about dementia and resistance to find out more about it with a slow take up of the one hour free information sessions I offer as a Dementia Champion.
I think this is because people are scared of dementia, which has replaced cancer as the disease that people fear most. This fear is fuelled by stigma and misunderstanding as well as the misguided perception that it ‘won’t happen to me’.
Unfortunately, dementia will not go away if we ignore it and I am on a mission to empower people about dementia and play a role in helping communities understand dementia so they can become more inclusive for the increasing number of people living with dementia.
A personal and professional interest in dementia
My interest and passion for dementia comes from my mother who has lived with dementia for many years and the fact that 80% of my elderly clients are living with dementia too.
About Dementia Friends
As the brain gradually shuts down people with dementia sometimes need a helping hand to go about their daily lives and feel included in the local community.
Dementia Friends is about giving more people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their local community.
The initiative is funded by the Department of Health and the Cabinet Office and championed by the Prime Minister
Dementia Friends is one part of Alzheimer’s Society’s work to create more dementia friendly communities – places that are more understanding and welcoming of people living with dementia. Their target is to recruit one million Dementia Friends by 2015.
Dementia friendly communities
The “dementia friendly communities” programme focuses on improving the inclusion and quality of life of people with dementia. In these communities:
- people will be aware of and understand more about dementia;
- people with dementia and their carers will be encouraged to seek help and support;
- people with dementia will feel included in their community, be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives.
And it’s great publicity for businesses that sign up. The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia includes an ambition to create communities that are working to help people live well with dementia. With the right attitude and approach people certainly can live well with dementia.
It will be a challenge to make our communities dementia friendly and neighbours, families, friends, companies, shops, taxi firms, banks, GP surgeries, dentists, professionals, hairdressers and other service providers need to become involved.
In a dementia friendly community:
- people will be, aware of and understand more about dementia
- people with dementia and their carers will be encouraged to seek help and support
- people with dementia will feel included in their community, be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives
And it’s great publicity for businesses that staff sign up to becoming Dementia Friends.
Living well with dementia
With the right attitude and understanding people can live well with dementia and we all need to accept social responsibility and play our part in making it happen.
Dementia should be everyone’s concern not just the government’s. Becoming a Dementia Friend will help you become informed and play your part so check out the Dementia Friends website now. Alternatively contact me via my website Relative Matters and I will be happy to help you.
The time to act is now
Old age is not about ‘them’ it is about all of us and dementia will touch all our lives directly or indirectly. The time to act is now and I urge you as an individual/business to open your hearts and minds and become a Dementia Friend.