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Training starts for one million 'dementia friends'

A scheme to train a million “dementia friends” to learn how to spot signs of the disease and support sufferers is being launched today.

The project is aimed at improving volunteering, education and support for the increasing number of people with dementia, with sessions provided in church halls and workplaces, said the Alzheimer’s Society.

The initiative was announced last year by prime minister David Cameron who has made it known that tackling dementia is a “personal priority” and expressed his hope that a million volunteers will sign up for coaching by 2015.

So far, the sessions have included famous faces in the form of comedians Jo Brand, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, and Meera Syal, one of whose close family members has dementia.

Brand, who trained as a psychiatric nurse, said “the small things” made a big difference and found her session provided insight into everyday life for a sufferer which “helps you to realise how showing a bit more understanding could make a huge difference”.

Syal said many of her friends also have parents and grandparents with the condition, adding she wanted to be a dementia friend to start to think about how she can help in her community, particularly the Asian community.

Anyone at any age can be a dementia friend, said Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the charity, adding the point was to create understanding and turn that into action.

More information is available at dementiafriends.org.uk.

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