Dementia Friends A campaign has been launched that seeks to encourage more businesses to become aware of the issues that dementia brings – including providing more help to employees who care for someone with the condition.

The launch of the Dementia Friends campaign, run jointly by Public Health England (PHE) and the Alzheimer’s Society, comes as research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research showed that many businesses already have measures in place. For example:

Most businesses have already provided or would consider providing a range of support to carers of someone living with dementia. 

More than half of businesses would consider providing a range of support to dementia carers such as flexible working hours (63%), extended leave (61%), working from different locations (53%) and counselling and support (51%)

About 18% would consider paying for respite care.

In addition, while people with dementia are often diagnosed when they are still working, and will generally have to take early retirement due to the progression of the condition, they may be able to keep working for longer with the support of their employer.

Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative launched in 2013 aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of the condition. The new campaign aims to raise awareness and help create a network of one million Dementia Friends across England by 2015.

In addition, the new campaign involves advertising with a range of celebrities including Ray Winstone, Chris Martin, Simon Pegg, Paul O’Grady, Sir Terry Pratchett and Alesha Dixon urging the public to become more ‘dementia friendly.’ 

Desire to help

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society said: “The fact that thousands of workers in this country are juggling caring responsibilities without support and understanding from their employers is frightening. We’re all beginning to talk about dementia, however, society is not yet fully supportive of people with dementia, either in the workplace or in everyday life. I’d love to see everyone become Dementia Friends, and make life that little bit easier for people with dementia.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, added: “Our research shows that there is a real public desire to do more to help people with dementia live well in society. This campaign will help people understand the issues faced and give them the information they need to support people in their community with dementia. 

“Businesses can encourage staff to become Dementia Friends through a suite of online videos, addressing the common challenges faced by customers with dementia, such as paying for goods or filling in forms. It is hoped this new tool will help businesses play their part in creating a dementia friendly society, and that by better understanding the condition they can adapt their businesses and thrive.”

Trust backing

The campaign has been backed by the West London Mental Health NHS Trust. Dr Sujoy Mukherjee, consultant psychiatrist and clinical lead for dementia at the West London Mental Health NHS Trust, said: “One in three of us over the age of 65 will develop dementia - an incredibly high statistic. But people with dementia can live well, and it is the responsibility of the rest of the community to help them do so.

“It is only by personally understanding the issues that people living with dementia face, can we fully appreciate the challenges they have to overcome on a day-to-day basis.  This is why West London Mental Health NHS Trust, as part of a national drive, is pledging to ensure every member of staff has at least a basic awareness of dementia.  We’ve also started a strong internal awareness drive to ensure all staff are aware of the campaign and to assist them to become friends if they wish to.”