ALZHEIMER’S disease and dementia is now the biggest cause of death among women in England and the second biggest cause of death in men.

The Alzheimer’s Society says with 850,000 people in the UK living with the condition, dementia is the biggest health and social care crisis facing the country today. It is expected the figure will reach one million by 2021 and two million by 2051. There is no cure.

However an initiative launched by the charity four years ago to tackle the stigma associated with dementia, which in turn leads to social exclusion, has received a very positive response from people in Worcestershire.

Its Dementia Friends programme aims to help the public have a better understanding of the condition and explore ways they can support people living with the disease. It could be simply telling friends about the programme or visiting and helping someone living with dementia.

Since it started in 2013, 43,350 people in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and the Black Country have signed up to become Dementia Friends.

Kumbi Mandinyenya, operations manager in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and the Black Country at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s encouraging to see what a difference can be made when people become Dementia Friends. Up and down the country, many people are no longer being excluded in their own communities.

“The public response so far has been phenomenal, but we must not lose momentum as dementia continues to be the biggest health and social care crisis of our time. We need all of society to unite with us against dementia by becoming a Dementia Friend.”

The society says the project is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of the illness and it is aiming to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about it.

A total of two million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have signed up to be Dementia Friends and they are going out into their communities with a greater understanding of the illness and some of the ways they can help.

It could be a simple act like being more patient in shopping queues, volunteering or campaigning for change. Dementia Friends are helping to create communities in which people living with dementia feel more understood and included.

The society says: “We need to create more communities and businesses that are dementia friendly so that people affected by dementia feel understood and included.”

The charity is also appealing for more people to become involved in the programme by becoming Dementia Friends Champions. These are volunteer who encourages others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. They do this by giving them information about the personal impact of dementia, and what they can do to help.

There are 343 Dementia Friends Champions in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and the Black Country who have helped to recruit the area’s Dementia Friends.

The champions attend a one-day induction where they learn about dementia and how it affects people, and the practical actions that Dementia Friends can take that could help someone with dementia living in their community.

They learn how to run Dementia Friends Information Sessions to inspire other people to become Dementia Friends and help to create dementia friendly communities.

During the induction day they also get lots of information and resources to help them understand how to answer people's questions about dementia and the sources of further information and support where they can be directed.

Anyone interested in becoming a Dementia Friend or a Dementia Friend Champion can get more information by visiting

Dementia fear

According to new research by Asda Pharmacy, half (49 per cent) of people in the West Midlands say dementia is their worst fear for a loved one while a third (34 per cent) of them fear getting dementia more than losing a loved one, losing mobility or suffering from a terminal illness.

The survey revealed that a loved one being diagnosed with dementia and taken into care is their worst fear. While more than a third said the possibility of being diagnosed with dementia themselves is a greater concern than suffering from a terminal illness, losing mobility or losing financial security.

However, despite this fear of the condition, people are often reluctant to seek help. Of those showing any early indicators that something is wrong, many are hesitant to confide in anyone about it, whether that is a family member or a health professional.

Over half of those surveyed in the region (53 per cent) said they would wait some time before speaking to a GP about memory loss. More than one in 10 (11 per cent) said that they would only consider seeing a GP about it as a last resort through fear of wasting the GP’s time.

A quarter of those questioned in the West Midlands would also avoid speaking to a loved one about memory health concerns until they had discussed it with a doctor first. However, people’s hesitancy to speak to a GP means many are missing out on early diagnoses, something which is essential to treat the condition.

There is an assumption among a significant number of the region (60 per cent) that memory loss is just ‘part and parcel’ of growing old. While forgetfulness is a natural occurrence, there is a difference between this and dementia.

Maq Din, healthcare clinical services manager at Asda Pharmacy, said: “Quite simply, the sooner a diagnosis is made the more informed and resourced the person living with dementia and their loved ones can be.

“By planning carefully for the future and taking the correct medication in good time, you can have far better control over the progression of the illness.”

There are measures and exercises that can be undertaken to give the brain the best chance of avoiding dementia and having an active mind is highly important, she added.