In the UK, more than 40 per cent of us know someone, or have known someone living with dementia. This may be a relative, family friend or someone living in your neighbourhood.
Research has also shown that it is the condition most feared by those over 55.
Yet, public understanding of dementia is still surprisingly low.
This lack of understanding can mean that many people feel they don’t know how to talk to people with symptoms of dementia and a fear of doing the wrong thing leads to avoidance.
As a result, people with dementia can find themselves being stigmatised or ignored.
Unfortunately, that means many people with dementia who live in the community are often struggling with loneliness, and some even lose their friends after they receive a diagnosis.
Dementia Friends is a trailblazing Alzheimer’s Society initiative that was launched to change this picture.
Its goal is to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia by giving more people an understanding of the condition and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their community. Since its launch in 2013, a million people have already become Dementia Friends.
Sessions have been held in libraries, town halls and leisure centres, while key high street names such as Marks & Spencer, Lloyds Pharmacy and Argos have also committed to make thousands of their staff Dementia Friends.
But there is still a long way to go and Alzheimer’s Society is keen to see as many people as possible signing up so together, we can create more dementia friendly communities.
Becoming a Dementia Friend is easy to do. You can go online and watch a short video or attend one of the many information sessions that are being held across the country.
By becoming a Dementia Friend, you can learn a little more about dementia and how you can turn that understanding into action. In the face-to-face sessions, you can take part in a number of interactive activities which help to put you in the shoes of people with dementia and understand about how they might feel.
Everyone who becomes a Dementia Friend is given a distinctive forget-me-not badge which it is hoped will become a commonplace sight across England.
Once you’ve taken part in the Dementia Friends’ information session, Alzheimer’s Society asks that you tell them how you are going to turn your understanding of dementia into a practical action. Every action counts - you don’t have to commit to doing something time- consuming.
Dementia actions could include behaving patiently with someone showing the signs of dementia, or spending more time with, helping or supporting someone affected by dementia.
For more information on Dementia Friends, visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk.