My mother was a remarkable woman and I have incredibly fond memories of her. I also remember what it was like for her to live with dementia. She continued to be the wonderful woman she always was but things changed. Her memory began to fade and day-to-day life became increasingly difficult.
Dementia does not discriminate and affects hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Many people with dementia feel lonely, and some even lose their friends. Having watched what my mother went through, I know first hand the difference people can make by showing understanding to a family dealing with dementia. What we need, in a country that has an ageing population and will see a million people living with dementia by 2021, is to increase awareness so we can ensure that every family has this support.
This is where Dementia Friends comes in. Run by the Alzheimer’s Society and supported by the Government, it will use awareness sessions to arm people with the knowledge they need to understand dementia better, and then ask them to turn that understanding into action – with no action too big or small.
Apparently, 43% of people in the UK - like me - know, or have known someone living with the condition, yet I know that many still don’t understand it or how it affects people on a day-to-day basis. Most also don’t realise that there are lots of small things they could do to make a big difference - something I found out myself when my mother was ill.
I would like to urge everyone to sign up. Dementia is no longer something any one of us can afford to ignore. The Alzheimer’s Society wants to recruit a million Dementia Friends by 2015. That’s a million people to give a helping hand to someone struggling to find the right bus or someone looking confused in the supermarket. A million people to start helping create "dementia friendly communities" that allow people with the condition to feel valued and included, rather than lonely and excluded. Dementia is everyone’s problem, and everyone can be part of the solution.
Sir Michael Parkinson is an Alzheimer's Society supporter. To register your interest in becoming a Dementia Friend, visit dementiafriends.org.uk or text FRIEND to 88080. You can add your comments on this blog post here.