ABOUT 8,000 people in Oxfordshire are said to have some form of dementia.

And a training course set up by the Alzheimer’s Society aims to help the public understand what it is like to live with the illness.

People are being invited to a free ‘Dementia Champions’ training session at the Oxford Playhouse in Beaumont Street on Tuesday, January 28.

Sara Miles, Dementia Friends regional support officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “People can receive ongoing support and be part of a growing network of people creating dementia-friendly communities together in Oxford and beyond.

“It’s all about giving more people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their community.”

Dementia Champions’ work on a voluntary basis and will be trained and equipped with resources to answer people’s questions about dementia and suggest sources of further information and support.

After completing the course they will be encouraged to help set up and run sessions for people who sign up as Dementia Friends, at lunch clubs, educational institutions and other community groups.

  • There are currently 2,000 Dementia Friends across the UK, but the Alzheimer’s Society hopes Dementia Champions will help to recruit a total of one million by 2015.
  • There are currently around 8,000 dementia sufferers in the county, up from 6,600 in 2010.
  • There are 800,000 people with dementia throughout the UK but this is set to soar to 1.7 million by 2050.
  • The cost of caring for people with dementia is £23bn a year – set to rise to £27bn by 2018 – and one in three people over 65 will die with it.
  • Oxford is one of six major dementia research centres across the UK.

Carer and mum-of-three, Nyarai Humba, 55, from Littlemore, is one of nine people from the Oxford area who have been on the course already.

She said it has ‘opened her eyes’ to some of the many difficulties facing dementia patients.

She said: “I am a trained nurse, but I was still absolutely blown away by some of the things I learned on the course, particularly about how people with dementia perceive the world and how in turn this makes them react – things like not being able to distinguish different doors, which can take away their ability to take themselves to the toilet.”

As a Dementia Champion, Mrs Humba can choose how often she organises sessions to sign up Dementia Friends, but she said she is already looking forward to sharing what she has learned and recruiting more volunteers across the county.

She said: “It is vital that we improve our understanding of dementia. People can be frightened of dementia but it is a growing problem and we must become a county of Dementia Friends.”

In December, Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron pledged to double dementia research funding from £66m in 2015 to £122m by 2026.

  • You can sign up for the local Dementia Champions training session by visiting dementiafriends.org.uk/ session/trainingcourses s For information on local support provided by the Alzheimer’s Society contact 01865 876508.
  • A dementia support charity is launching a Strictly Come Dancing event to help raise funds. Daybreak, which runs dementia support day clubs in Greater Leys, Kidlington and North Oxford, helps more than 200 patients and carers. The Strictly Come Dancing event, in which 14 professional dancing couples will go head-to-head, is at Wheatley Park School in Holton, near Wheatley, on Saturday, January 18. For tickets go to daybreak-oxford.org.uk