Recently I discovered a great deal about an important issue that is going to affect many of us, either directly or indirectly, when I went on a Dementia Friends Awareness session. And the reason it’s so important is simple, and a little frightening: there are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and there will be more than a million by 2021.
If that isn’t worrying enough, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, the proportion of people with dementia doubles for every five year age group as we live longer and 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to it. Alzheimer’s grabs the headlines because it’s the most common form, but there are around 100 forms of dementia including vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies, and the fear and challenges of having the disease, or caring for someone who has it, makes for a devastating situation in many families. So the Alzheimer’s Society and Public Health England’s excellent Dementia Friends initiative is helping people be more aware and cope with the condition, while educating the general public about some of the issues surrounding what will be increasingly commonplace in our society.
The story is not all grim, as I learned during the session, as many people continue fulfilling lives with the condition with the right approach, medication and support. But the wider public need to know more if people with dementia can have a better quality of life because there is more to a person than dementia and the problems it inevitably can cause. One thing I was told that got me thinking was how important it is for people to create a memory book in middle age which could be a source for carers to help those people if they get dementia as the oldest memories tend to be the last to go.
One other solution are dementia friendly high streets with Lyndhurst, Fareham and Romsey in Hampshire already so named as shop staff have had training to help people with dementia and react if they become confused. I very much hope that some of the towns in the Meon Valley will also become dementia friendly in the coming months. So this super initiative is going to make all of us more dementia friendly and hopefully a little more dementia ready to face the challenge of this awful condition.
More information about the campaign and details of how you can become a Dementia Friend can be found on their website: http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk