Working for a dementia-friendly Oldham is one of my top local priorities which I have worked towards since 2011 and tremendous progress has been made in recent years. Locally, over 4,000 people have become dementia friends and the diagnosis rate has increased from 52% to 73% between 2012 and 2013. The number of people accessing peer and carers support groups has increased three-fold in a year.
I have personal experience of dementia, having provided respite care for my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, she died in 2012 but since then I have been able to help other families and carers, experiencing a similar situation. I have spoken about my mum’s experiences in Parliament and ran the Great Manchester Run last year for the Alzheimer’s Society. I was the first MP to train as a Dementia Friends Champion, enabling me to run Dementia Friends sessions in Oldham and also with
House staff and colleagues in Parliament to launch dementia-friendly Parliament last year. As the local MP spearheading the campaign I was able to use my extensive local networks to bring people together to support a dementia-friendly Oldham. The Oldham Chronicle newspaper joined the campaign, along with the local Council and Dementia Partnership, and in a few months over 2,000 local people had signed up as Dementia Friends. We are now well on the way to becoming a true dementia-friendly community.
I was honoured to be elected as co-Chair of the APPG on Dementia and was asked to speak at the Dementia Friendly Parliament event in Speaker’s House about progress made in Oldham and my experiences of being a Dementia Friends Champion. I firmly believe that Parliament has a responsibility to lead by example and make sure we are a dementia-friendly environment and I look forward to leading more sessions for MPs and staff over this year.