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Stars back new campaign to drive awareness of dementia

Published 21 September 2012

Sir Michael Parkinson, Fiona Phillips and Gordon Banks to support national 'A Day to Remember' campaign, calling for the public not to delay talking about dementia.

A Day to Remember

A new campaign which aims to increase early diagnosis rates for dementia across England by tackling the public's fears of talking about the condition, has been launched today by the Department of Health with support from Alzheimer's Society.

The 'A Day to Remember' campaign is part of the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia. It will encourage people to have that first 'difficult conversation' with a friend or family member when they spot the signs and symptoms of dementia, and encourage them to visit their GP.

New research  shows: 
  • Half of people (50 per cent) say they would find it hard to talk about dementia to a friend or family member they thought might have it;
  • A third (33 per cent) say that personal concerns (such as fear of upsetting someone or feeling awkward or anxious) would discourage them from talking about dementia or memory loss with a friend or relative; and
  • That nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of people would not be confident telling the difference between the signs of dementia and the normal signs of ageing.

The three-month national campaign, launched on World Alzheimer's Day, will raise awareness of the condition, what initial signs and symptoms look like and how to seek help. Advice on how to have difficult conversations about the condition will also be available.

Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia

David Cameron giving a speech about the dementia challengeThe Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia was launched in March this year and included a commitment to change people's understanding of the condition. In addition to the £3.2m campaign, the Challenge committed to transform the UK into a leading light of dementia care and research, by driving up diagnosis rates; and increasing investment in research and raising the quality of dementia care.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

'Dementia is a devastating disease that puts enormous strain on people and their families.

'Shockingly, nearly 400,000 people are unaware that they have the condition and so we want to make sure more people know what dementia is and how to spot those tell-tale signs.

'With the number of sufferers set to rise in the years ahead, I am determined that we go much further and faster on dementia.   

'That's why I launched a Challenge on Dementia in March, doubling the research budget and working across society to improve health and care, and supporting people to live well with the condition.'

Celebrities lend their support

Sir Michael Parkinson, Fiona Phillips and legendary England goalkeeper Gordon Banks have lent their support to the campaign, by sharing their personal experiences of dementia in a short film, at www.nhs.uk/dementia.

Tackling the challenge of dementia

Welcoming the launch Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said:

'Our goal is to make this country a world leader in tackling the challenge of dementia. That requires us all to play our part, including being brave enough to start conversations about dementia to get our loved ones the early help we know makes a difference.

'Awareness is just the first step towards tackling the stigma around this condition and we need to work together if we're going to help those living with dementia have a better quality of life.

'This campaign delivers on commitments made by the Prime Minister to raise awareness of a condition predicted to affect a third of us in the future.'

Initial signs and symptoms of the condition, which is caused by diseases including Alzheimer's Disease, may include short-term memory loss that affects daily life, unexplained anxiety or depression and problems thinking or reasoning, such as finding it hard to follow conversations or TV programmes.

Early diagnosis is crucial

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:

'Dementia is one of biggest challenges we are facing, but while there remains no cure, early diagnosis can help people take control of their condition and plan for the future.

'This campaign sends a clear and important message - if you have spotted signs or symptoms in your loved ones then have that difficult conversation because diagnosis makes a difference.

'With an ageing population we know the estimated 670,000 people living with dementia in England today is set to grow, which is why we have made dementia a clear national priority.'

Just over two fifths of those living with dementia (42 per cent ) in England receive a formal diagnosis, which means that many thousands of people with the condition go without the medical or emotional support that could help to slow its progress, or to help them to live well with dementia. The number of people in England living with dementia is 670,000, but this is expected to double in the next 30 years.

Talking to a loved one about dementia

To help family members and others to start talking about the condition with their loved ones, the Alzheimer's Society have issued advice on how to have difficult conversations.

Chief Executive at Alzheimer's Society, Jeremy Hughes said:

'Talking to a loved one about dementia will probably be one of the most difficult conversations you ever have, but it will be worth it. Early diagnosis is crucial in helping people with dementia to access the support and help they need to live well with the condition.'

Fiona PhillipsAlzheimer's Society Ambassador, Fiona Phillips, whose parents both had dementia, is supporting the campaign. She said:

'If you think a loved one is showing the signs of dementia, it's so important to take that first step and talk to them about it. There are things you can do to help; treatments can work well for people, but early diagnosis also means you can plan and get help, instead of doing everything in a rush.'

Ann Johnson, who is living with dementia and is an Ambassador for Alzheimer's Society said:

'I have found that the general public are more aware about dementia since the Department of Health launched its campaign to raise awareness of the condition. Hopefully there is less stigma surrounding the condition as well. The more people who understand the concept of what living with dementia is like, the better it will be for people like me. I want people to love me for who I am and be with me as I go through the journey of living with dementia.'