UK: Helping People With Dementia Get By With A Little Help From Their Friends

Last Updated: 23 November 2014
Article by Karen Taylor

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

In May 2014, Public Health England and the Alzheimer's Society, as part of the Prime Ministers Dementia Challenge, joined forces to launch a new campaign to encourage people to become Dementia Friends. Dementia Friends is a social movement which aims to create one million "Dementia Friends" by 2015. Currently there are over 500,000 Dementia Friends in the UK. This week, Deloitte's entire Executive became Dementia Friends and, in leading by example, hope to boost the number by encouraging other Deloitte employees, and hopefully their clients, to follow suit.

Becoming a Dementia Friend enables people to learn a little bit about what it is like to live with dementia and how to turn that understanding into action. This could be helping someone find the right bus or being patient in a till queue if someone with dementia is taking longer to pay. Every action counts.

The Executive's support of the Dementia Friends initiative is the latest development in Deloitte's partnership with the Alzheimer's Society which, in July 2013, became one of our three national charity partners. Yesterday, following a presentation by the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Society, Jeremy Hughes, the entire Executive became Dementia Friends.

If the Executive's example isn't encouragement enough, I thought I would use this week's "Thoughts from the Centre" to explain some of the facts about dementia and why you should consider becoming part of this important social movement.

Dementia is a progressive, terminal, brain disease which causes a decline in multiple areas of function including memory loss, reasoning, communication skills and the ability to carry out daily activities. People live for an average of 11 years following a dementia diagnosis. The four main causes of dementia are Alzheimer's disease (about 55 per cent), vascular dementia (about 20 per cent), dementia with Lewy bodies (about 15 per cent), and frontotemporal dementia (about five per cent). Dementia is strongly associated with ageing, although early onset dementia does occur in small number of people under the age of 65. The prevalence of dementia roughly doubles every 5 years over the age of 60. Moreover, in 2014 it is estimated that:

  • some 815,800 people in the UK have dementia (both diagnosed and undiagnosed), 62 per cent of whom have Alzheimer's disease
  • around 670,000 people act as primary carers for people with dementia
  • that by 2021, as the UK's population ages, some one million people will have dementia
  • the total cost to the UK economy of dementia is some £26.3 billion or £32,250 per person, comprising healthy and social care and the cost of unpaid carers
  • dementia costs UK business some £1.6 billion per year with 89 per cent of employers believing that dementia will become a bigger issue for their organisation and their staff.

While diagnosis rates are improving, wide variations exist across the UK, ranging from less than 40 per cent in some areas to over 75 per cent in others. Once diagnosed, however, the absence of viable treatments means many people are left without support. However, by making communities easier places for people with dementia and their carers to access services, socialise and live well, many will be able to live happy, productive and fulfilled lives. Instead, for far too many people, fear and ignorance of the condition and the double stigma of old age and mental decline means that:

  • 75 per cent of people in the UK don't think society is geared up to deal with people with dementia
  • 61 per cent of people with dementia feel lonely always or some of the time
  • 48 per cent of people with dementia feel like a burden to their family
  • two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community.

These are just some of the reasons, why getting involved with the Alzheimer's Society and becoming a Dementia Friend is important. In learning a bit more about dementia and the small things that can be done to help people with the condition, everyone can play a part in lending a helping hand and enabling people with dementia to go about their family lives and feel included in their local community.

So let's join our Executive and help the Dementia Friends campaign reach its target by signing up today and spreading the word. After all becoming a Dementia Friend is very straightforward - you can either watch a short online film or attend a face-to-face awareness session, which both explain what dementia is, how it affects individuals and what people can do to help those living with the condition. Once you have watched the film, you need to register your details to receive a Dementia Friends badge and 'Little Book of Friendship', which includes further ideas and tips on how to be a friend to someone with dementia. The video and form can be accessed via the Alzheimer's Society website.

In the words of the Beatle's song featured in the TV ad, used to launch the Dementia Friend initiative, which aired for the first time on the evening of 7 May 2014, 'I can try with a little help from my friends, I get by with a little help from my friends'!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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