Thank you very much for taking the time to visit the Dementia Friends website and this the project blog. I hope that having read a bit more about what we are trying to achieve, you will agree with me that this is a truly exciting prospect. Never before have we tried to bring together a million people behind the cause of creating a better life for people with dementia. But I have complete confidence that we are not only going to meet this ambitious target by 2015 but beat it.
During my time as Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society I have been lucky enough to meet many amazing people with dementia. One of the things they have told me is how people don’t want their dementia to stop them doing the things they enjoy or the day to day things we all take for granted. Yet despite this I have also heard too many stories of people who no longer feel they can be part of their community. Instead they feel isolated and daunted by the prospect of doing things like going to the shop or taking part in a social group. One example I heard recently was from a carer who had been out shopping in a local supermarket with his wife who has dementia. As has always been the case, his wife was helping unpack the trolley while he packed the bags. Because of her dementia she became slightly confused. To the dismay of the carer, the response of the man behind her was to become irate and impatient, which put immense stress on his wife, to the point that she no longer felt comfortable carrying on with the task in hand.
Dementia Friends will prevent situations like this from happening. We want to ensure that if a person with dementia is struggling to sort out their change in a shop or navigate their way round a town centre that they are greeted with a helping hand rather than a turned back. Now, I know for a fact that most people would not intentionally want to exclude or ignore people with dementia. Rather they simply don’t know how they can help or don’t know how to spot the signs of dementia. After all people with dementia don’t wear a badge to let the world know they have the condition.
By empowering people with the know-how about dementia we hope they will feel confident around people with dementia. So in the supermarket I mentioned before, the impatient man would instead have realised that the confusion in front of him had been caused by dementia and instead could have offered to help with the unpacking or simply chosen not to become irate. These simple things can make all the difference.
Obviously the more people commit to doing the better life could be for people with dementia. I can’t wait to see what a difference we can all make. This is on top of the other amazing work that has come out of the Dementia Friendly Communities champion group which I chair with Angela Rippon. More on that later I’m sure. Now it’s your turn to play your part. Today we just need you to register your interest. By signing up, you will be the first to hear about when and how you can take the next step to becoming a Dementia Friend. It’s a small step to a big change.