Francis Maude: Training to become Dementia Friends

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

On Tuesday our Cabinet meeting was a bit different. We were visited by the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society and the Chief Nurse from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, who trained us all to become Dementia Friends. I wrote last week about Giving Tuesday, and this was a contribution and an important statement which we all wanted to make.

I was sorry not to be able to get to the Dementia Open Forum in Horsham last month, which I understand to have been a great success in raising awareness of this insidious disease. It’s the greatest health concern of the over 55s, and costs our economy £26 billion a year. It is a huge health challenge, and a growing one given that by the end of the next Parliament over 1 million people will be living with the condition.

A diagnosis can seem like a firmly closed door, but there are many ways to live better with the disease, and plenty of small things which we can do for ourselves and each other to delay significant decline. And it’s important to remember that for every person diagnosed, it’s a life-changing moment for their family members too.

We learned that one of the most important things we can all do is to talk openly about it, try to remove the stigma which is still carried by many conditions which affect mental health, and to ensure that we include people in our social round whom we might not immediately think of. As our patterns of living change, there are many more people living alone than ever before, and loneliness is now a real issue in our fast-moving society in which people connect in all sorts of ways which are simply not available to many older people. If you add further social isolation caused by the stress of trying to interact with strangers, it’s easy to see why the basic ideas of good neighbourliness can make such a difference.

On another note, a word of warning to any of you who might be cold-called by a company offering to replace your boiler under the Government’s Green Deal scheme. This is a good programme, but it would seem as though some unscrupulous companies are claiming credentials which they do not have, and fraudulently taking money for surveys and products which do not then materialise. Please be sure to check the DECC website or telephone help line, which has a list of approved contractors who have been through a very robust vetting process.