Dementia is one of the most dramatic health crises facing humanity today. Worldwide, an estimated 47 million people are living with the condition and yet, there is no effective treatment to prevent, slow or stop the diseases that cause it.
Most of us know someone directly or indirectly affected by dementia – in our families, our places of work, or in our communities. And yet, many people admit they don’t know much about the underlying diseases or how to help.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK’s latest Dementia Attitude Monitor, one in five UK adults still incorrectly believe that dementia is an inevitable part of old age. The truth is that dementia is caused by diseases that affect the brain, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Research UK's fantastic campaign #ShareTheOrange with Samuel L. Jackson uses an orange to highlight the physical impact on the brain during dementia, helping to address this common misconception. Please watch and share the video below.
This week, I was pleased to provide a video message to the Financial Times Dementia Summit, hosted in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society. The event explored the latest advances in dementia research and care, as well as looking at the challenges facing those responsible for delivering progress in society.
Jo Barnett, Executive Director of Virgin Money Giving, also spoke at the event. She discussed Dementia Revolution which was selected Charity of the Year for the 2019 London Marathon. The joint campaign by Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society represents Virgin Money’s most successful charity partnership to date.
Jo talked about the Virgin Money’s wonderful work to improve dementia awareness among customers and employees. Virgin Money now include a Dementia Friends training session for all new employees, as well as hosting dementia-related events in their Virgin Money Lounges.
The Dementia Summit served as an important reminder of the role business must take in supporting people with dementia. The upcoming report from the Alzheimer’s Society tells us about the heavy economic toll dementia takes. This year alone, at least 45,000 people are said to be retiring from the workforce due to dementia. The loss of their skills and experience comes at a cost of roughly £1 billion to the UK economy.
Whether it’s employees trying to juggle work and care duties, or customers struggling with their own health, business can and must do more to support them. From improvements in the design of products and services to training opportunities for employees, there are steps each business can take to make things easier for people with dementia.
I was interested to read the Financial Times’ special report exploring this subject, ‘Business and Dementia’. I agree with Jeremy Hughes, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society, who said: “Many people are diagnosed with dementia when they are at their most experienced in their working life.
"To throw out their skills, knowledge and abilities without considering how much they still have to offer is ignorant, lacking compassion and wasteful. We all have a duty to help people affected by dementia feel included in their community, be treated equally and feel accepted, so that they can live better lives.”
To help businesses support people with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Society have developed the Dementia Friendly Business Guide. The guide outlines the business benefits of becoming dementia-friendly, as well as practical tips on creating a more supportive environment for employees and customers.
At Virgin, we’re still at the start of our journey but know that the first steps are all about letting people know it’s OK to talk about dementia. Dementia can affect all of us, but with the right level of support, we can make a real difference and reduce the devastation of the condition for generations to come.