Before my late mother was diagnosed with a form of dementia I thought I knew a lot about the condition.
When the diagnosis came I realised how far from the truth that was. Communities across the UK are faced with the growing reality of dementia, yet public understanding of the condition remains poor.
This has to change. Dementia is a broad term used to describe a variety of brain disorders, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s.
Those suffering from dementia can experience a range of symptoms including memory loss, confusion and issues with speech.
In the time that it takes you to read this article, one new person in the UK will have developed dementia.
Across the country, there are 850,000 people living with the condition, a number that is set to more than double by 2051.
In Portsmouth alone there are over 2,000 people who have dementia, and there are thousands more living across Hampshire.
Raising awareness is absolutely critical to not only preventing it from being treated as a taboo subject, but also providing the general public with the understanding and means to better support those with condition.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is one initiative that has made great headway in achieving this. This programme aims to create more communities and businesses that are dementia friendly so that people affected feel understood and included.
To achieve this aim volunteer Dementia Friends Champions run information sessions to create Dementia Friends; having comfortably met their target to create one million Friends, Alzheimer’s Society have set themselves the new, ambitious aim to quadruple this number by 2020.
Along with many MP’s, a few years ago I became a Dementia Friend, which provided me with an invaluable understanding of what it is like to live with dementia and how I can change my own behaviours to support people with the condition.
To do my bit to help spread awareness in East Hampshire, I decided to train as a Dementia Friends Champion and I am currently running information sessions in the area.
Like the Alzheimer’s Society, I want to make sure more people are given the opportunity to understand the disease so that we can not only reach and surpass the Society’s 2020 aim, but also create the most dementia friendly country in Europe.
Becoming a Dementia Friend takes one hour of your time – the same amount as your average television programme. This month, why not press record on your favourite show and take that hour to learn more about a condition that is touching so many. Be a friend this October. Go to dementiafriends.org.uk.