Spirit of Olympic volunteers can help dementia sufferers

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The Health Secretary hopes to harness the spirit of volunteering generated during the Olympics to help provide support for dementia sufferers.

Jeremy Hunt, who was Culture Secretary during the Games, is calling on a million members of the public to provide support for those suffering with the condition.

Launching the ambitious plan to create masses of “dementia friends” who will be able to spot the signs of the condition and offer support for sufferers, Mr Hunt said that the London 2012 volunteers were an “inspiration”.

Speaking at a church hall in Kentish Town, north London, where he met with dementia sufferers, carers and volunteers, Mr Hunt said: “The volunteers at the Olympics were an inspiration to everyone across the country and I think they changed the way we all felt about the Olympics because that sense that people were giving their own time to try and make sure that we could enjoy the Games really made it so much better as an experience.

“We definitely took a lot of inspiration from that and we are trying to harness that to tackle this big challenge we have – a million people will get dementia by 2020, that’s a huge chunk of the population. It’s already responsible for about five per cent or 10 per cent of all deaths.”

The initiative was launched by the Prime Minister yesterday. David Cameron, who says that tackling dementia is a “personal priority” of his, hopes that one million people will sign up to receive coaching sessions by 
2015.

The sessions, which will be provided in church halls and workplaces, will help to raise awareness and teach people how to support those with the condition.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes, who was also at the event, said: “There are three main parts to the session, one is an understanding of what dementia is, so there is an understanding that dementia is a disease of the brain, it’s not just a natural part of ageing – which is one of the myths that we need to get away from.

“Secondly, that there is support people can get, whether it’s from the Alzheimer’s Society, whether it’s the drugs that are now available on the NHS.

“Thirdly, people will take away from the training session a better understanding of every day life – how much more difficult it is for somebody with dementia to make a cup of tea, to go shopping, to operate a bank account.

“By having that understanding we will all be able to do our little bit to enable people to carry on living at home which is where they want to be.”

To register interest in taking part in the local sessions, visit dementiafriends.org.uk or by text Friend to 88080.