Hazel Blears and Arelene Phillips
A group of MPs took a key step towards helping end the stigma surrounding dementia yesterday (Tuesday 10 September 2013) by becoming Dementia Friends.
The cross-party collection, which included Tracey Crouch MP, Tim Farron MP, and Steve Rotherham MP came together at Portcullis House, in Westminster for the information session, aimed at helping people understand what it might be like to live with dementia.
Dementia Friends was launched in February this year by Alzheimer's Society and is a trailblazing initiative that aims to make England more dementia-friendly and improve the lives of the 650,000 people currently living with the condition, by turning improved public understanding into action. Alzheimer's Society is aiming to have one million Dementia Friends by 2015.
31 MPs attended the session, taking part in exercises aimed at helping participants understand the effect of dementia on people's everyday lives, including one that asked them to try and remember the detail of a one penny coin. They were also asked to pledge an action in order to help make their community more dementia-friendly.
A number of MPs who attended the session, tweeted about their experiences afterwards, including James Morris, MP, who recognised that 'tackling dementia [is] one of our biggest challenges' and Annette Brooke, MP, who said the session had provided her with 'lots to think about for constituency action to make life better for people with #dementia'.
A further 200 MPs dropped by to see Alzheimer's Society representatives provide a handwritten statement of the action they plan to take to support people with dementia and their carers.
This included Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harman, who pledged to 'visit an Alzheimer's Society service and meet constituents living with dementia.'
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer's Society said:
'Most people don't know enough about dementia. Dementia Friends is the perfect opportunity to be able to invite everyone to improve their knowledge. We are pleased to have been able to engage over 130 MPs in one day. They have a huge influence in their local communities and we hope they will use this opportunity to take action and improve lives.
If you are interested in becoming a Dementia Friend please visit dementiafriends.org.uk to find your nearest information session or to volunteer as a Dementia Friends Champion.