Dementia Centred

June's picture

By Professor June Andrews

May 8th, 2014

Has the word Friend lost its true meaning?

In these dark days it is really important to remain positive.  In the 25 years since the DSDC was established we have gone through times when no-one seemed to be interested in talking about dementia and the stigma was so bad that people would actually sympathise with us when we told them what we did. They’d say, “We are glad that someone is looking at this, because to be honest, we can’t bear to think about it.”

Now the pendulum has swung the other way.  Everyone wants to be involved.  Every single politician I meet tells me that they are a dementia friend!  Hurrah!  Well, no, actually, not “Hurrah.”  More, “What is it you are trying to tell me when you say that you are a dementia friend?”

I’ve got some nice and some nasty ideas about why they want to be a dementia friend and what they are really telling me when they smirk and show me their nice new badges.  Why are they telling me this?

It may be because it is the idea of the Alzheimer’s Society and appearing to criticise them is a bit dangerous.  They are so big and powerful that they might get angry with you and who knows what would happen then.

It may be because it is the idea of the Prime Minister and you want to keep in with him.

It may be because you are in opposition and you wish you’d thought of it first and though you’d like to kick the Prime Minister, he is using the Alzheimer’s Society as a human shield and …(etc…see above).

Or is it because someone somewhere has given you the impression that you can learn all that is needed about dementia in a couple of hours, and that is good because you don’t have to worry from then on about people being slapped in care homes, or being dehydrated in hospital, or looked after by staff with no training or prescribed medication by doctors who don’t know about dementia. Or about around three hundred thousand people with dementia in England who STILL won’t get their diagnosis before they die.  At least that reduces the number of people to whom you'd need to demonstrate your friendship.  The missing 50% will have to get along without your friendship.

The nice idea would be that those dementia friends are committing to doing something other than paying lip service to dementia.  They might go out and find people with dementia and see if they can introduce them to someone who actually wants to make a diagnosis.  In these dark days I’ll hold on to that for a bit, just in case it turns out to be anything like the truth.