Dutch launch major dementia awareness campaign

State Secretary Martin van Rijn of Public Health is launching a campaign to increase the awareness and understanding of dementia in society. He wants people to realize that the elderly person getting on the bus without knowing his destination, or trying to walk out of a store without paying, is not necessarily a criminal, but may in fact be suffering from dementia.

Van Rijn announced his campaign in a letter to the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, on Wednesday. The State Secretary believes that this campaign is very necessary, as dementia will play an increasingly big roll in the daily lives of the Dutch population. An estimated 260 thousand people are currently living with dementia in the Netherlands. This number is expected to increase to 400 thousand by 2050 due to the aging population and increased life expectancy.

The Secretary of State has reserved 16 million euros for this awareness campaign, which falls under the Delta Plan Dementia. This amount is in addition to the 32.5 million euros the cabinet already reserved for this plan, for scientific study into this fatal brain disease.

With this money Van Rijn wants to start spreading an awareness and understanding of dementia. He is following the British model, creating a network of "dementia friends", who can be anyone that comes into contact with dementia, from a hairdresser, to a bus driver or police officer.

"Dementia is terrible. And whether we like it or not: dementia will play an increasing role in our daily lives in the coming years", Van Rijn said. "For this reason i am investing in a million extra pairs of eyes and ears. People who will realize what is going on if someone does not know anything in the supermarket or gets on the bus without a destination. That is when people like you and me need more awareness and understanding, also to lend a helping hand as soon as possible."