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With a little help from your friends

Helping those with dementia to remain valued members of the community is not just a job for nurses, it is a responsibility for all.

Don't we all want to live in a tolerant, supportive and understanding community? Then watch out for the impact of the Dementia Friends campaign launched in May and the 20-second TV advert that packs a punch. It is powerful, moving, sad, joyous, optimistic and funny - and you can sing along to 'Get by with a little help from my friends', the 1967 track from the Beatle's LP Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Music, celebrities and TV are powerful mechanisms and together they have created a memorable plug for dementia. An imaginative and inspiring campaign on prime time TV has brought dementia out of the shadows and made it a talking point - and not a quip to forgetfulness or the butt of cruel jokes. 

Public Health England and the Alzheimers Society have collaborated to make dementia everybody's business. And as a society, we need all the help we can get. Dementia is a progressive condition that will get worse. There are presently 800,000 people diagnosed with dementia in the UK - there are likely to be one million by 2021. Of these cases, 17,000 are young people, two thirds 

are women, and one third of those aged over 95 have dementia. The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every five-year age group.

The campaign 'Dementia Friends' aims to raise the awareness and understanding of the condition in the population and to businesses and communities. It encourages people to take action to help people with dementia and those who look after them, supporting people with dementia to remain well in their homes. 

It is time those with dementia and their carers were given more consideration through greater awareness in society. Benefit offices, telephone call centres, cafes, people with big dogs, shops, insurance companies, the media, utility providers, travel companies and healthcare providers (some who randomly come to my mind), will be encouraged to up their game and consider their approach and services to those with dementia. And this will happen through the enthusiasm, inspiration and the drive of volunteer Dementia Friends. The public will be encouraged to develop dementia supports and practical actions for day-to-day living, and further inspire others not to shy away. Families should not need to struggle alone and behind doors; they can share the sorrows, burdens, barriers and pleasures dementia brings.

We have come a long way as a society and a profession. I can remember the days where patients had a referral to the mental health team for forgetfulness, aggression, confusion and un-cooperation. The registered general nurse was not trained to deal with behavioural symptoms: ours was a physical health remit. We have come to understand that chronic illness, trauma and hospitalisation made patients depressed and, as a consequence, have modified our strategies and caring accordingly. We have more to do for those with dementia. 

This national campaign is likely to help those of us in health and social care roles. There are 670,000 family and friends caring for those with dementia, saving society £8 billion a year. Raising their important profile, confidence to care and ongoing social supports could improve medicine compliance, timely referral, and avoid hospital admissions of those with dementia. Moreover, raising our staff awareness as healthcare providers is likely to improve care management, reduce hospital attendance and improve discharge planning and liaison. 

Eight out of ten people in care homes have dementia. The public are being made aware of the considerations we should be showing to these vulnerable residents. It is to be hoped poor health carers will be challenged by colleagues and the public where we have failed to consider the special needs of dementia. 

Nurses and healthcare providers need to be sure we have our own house in order. These are the expectations the public have of us - and regretfully the media scandals, safeguarding investigations and public enquiries 

of recent years indicate we have failed some 

of those in our care who were vulnerable 

and trusting. 

Amazingly, only 44% of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive a diagnosis. Let this national campaign raise our personal sensitivity and renew our professional commitment to our patients.