With one in three people over 65 developing dementia the scheme is designed to change the way people think, talk and act about the condition. It is funded by the Social Fund and the Department of Health and led by the Alzheimer’s Society.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5Live, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said dementia is still a bit of a taboo subject and as a society we are "shockingly bad" with the way we deal with it.
It's hoped Dementia Friends will go some way towards changing that.
What are dementia friends?
Dementia Friends are people who have undergone free awareness sessions (usually about a couple of hours long) to help them understand dementia better and know how to make people with dementia feel understood and included in their community. Unless you understand why or how a person with dementia may need support, it’s difficult to provide it.
Each Dementia Friend will be awarded a forget-me-not badge, to show that they know about dementia. The same forget-me-not symbol will also be used to recognise organisations and communities that are dementia friendly.
What do they do?
On the Dementia Friend website is an example of how one person can do something that makes a difference.
Trevor Jarvis who has the condition said he was having trouble in his bank trying to deposit money in a machine. The response of the cashier was to point him towards a sign which, as his dementia affects his ability to read, was of little use. He says he was obviously confused but if someone in the bank, customer or employee, had understood his condition it would have made a big difference.
How do I become a Dementia Friend?
People can register their interest in becoming a Dementia Friend on the Dementia Friends website.
The scheme is being launched first in England and the Alzheimer’s Society is hoping to extend it to the rest of the UK. It hopes to have Dementia Friends in every community - in every hospital ward, post office, place of worship and on every street.
Why is it necessary?
As the brain gradually shuts down, people with dementia sometimes need a helping hand to go about their daily lives so that they can live independently for as long as possible.
They may need help overcoming seemingly straightforward tasks like reading bus timetables or handling money.
Has it been tried anywhere else?
England is only the second country in the world to introduce such a scheme, the first country was Japan.
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