There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, over 40,000 of those are under the age of 65 and still of working age. With numbers set to rise, businesses have an increasing social responsibility to become more aware of dementia and help break its stigma.

Recently, Alzheimer’s Society was proud to announce that the Dementia Friends programme has reached one million people. The campaign has harnessed the energy of individuals, communities and organisations, allowing anyone to learn more about the condition, and making sure people with dementia are understood and included. As a Dementia Friends Champion myself, I have provided sessions to a range of people, including Deloitte’s Senior Leadership Team.

Deloitte chose Alzheimer’s Society as one of their charities for 2013-2016. We are delighted to have made significant progress on a number of fronts – from fundraising to raising awareness to pro-bono projects, in order to support our strategic ambitions.

Deloitte has delivered a number of pro-bono projects including digital strategy, property review and we are currently working together to develop our next five year strategy. These projects have a huge transformative impact on the charity. As well as pro bono support, Deloitte have begun to join the biggest ever social action movement to change perceptions of dementia.

They are encouraging staff to learn more and commit to an action, promoting the programme through digital channels, hosting the Dementia Friends video on their intranet and recognising colleagues who have become Friends with a prize draw to attend a private screening of Still Alice at the BFI. Inspiring employees to take part is vital, consequently providing staff with empathy and understanding to support colleagues and clients who are affected, as well as influencing their day-to-day life.  

The response from Deloitte colleagues has been positive, with commitments such as continuing to raise awareness of the campaign within the firm in newsletters and at community sessions. Some have even pledged to help a neighbour by checking in once a week to make sure they are living well with dementia.

Working together with organisations like Deloitte, we can ensure that people with dementia and their carers are offered the support to live a fulfilling life. This initiative, borne from the experiences of people with dementia who all too frequently lose friends and experience loneliness, is transforming the way the nation thinks, talks and acts about dementia. As we bypass the one million mark we have now committed to creating a further three million dementia friends by 2020.

Anyone can become a Dementia Friend by watching a short online video or attending a face-to-face session. To find out more visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society

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