Dame Judi Dench backs new dementia care campaign

Dame Judi Dench is backing a new dementia care campaign.

The 84-year-old actress - who became familiar with the devastating disease, which causes a decline in memory and makes it difficult to complete everyday activities, when she portrayed Iris Murdoch in the 2001 movie 'Iris' - is throwing her support behind a new campaign from the Daily Mail newspaper to improve support for those suffering.

She said: "I know from playing the role of Iris Murdoch that Alzheimer's is a cruel disease that not only affects the person diagnosed but their family, friends and colleagues.

"I'm proud to call myself an Alzheimer's Society patron because it's a charity that is constantly pushing for reform to make life better for people who are living with dementia. I'm pleased to see the Mail has stepped up to fight the grave injustice of social care, including supporting Alzheimer's Society's call for an NHS dementia fund to address urgent needs now.

"I feel that there is an unstoppable momentum thanks to the Mail, and that the new prime minister will be held to account if he doesn't immediately address this mounting social care challenge."

'Downton Abbey' creator Lord Julian Fellowes, 69, is also supporting the campaign and he said: "Dementia will certainly affect people we know and love, both relations and friends, and may be something we have to deal with ourselves, rather like cancer.

"The difference is that if we get cancer, the state will be helpful and supportive, spending limitless sums on research and on our care. The same cannot be said of dementia, at least not yet. The fundamental approach to dementia in this country needs to change, for those who are in its grip now and for the many more who will be."

Dame Esther Rantzen, who founded the Silver Line charity which offers friendship and advice to the elderly, added: "I welcome this crucial campaign. Something must be done to solve the urgent, growing problem.

"So many of our Silver Line callers, older and frail themselves, are caring for partners with dementia and are constantly anxious about their safety and welfare.

"What will happen to them both if their home is snatched from them by the financial demands of residential care?"

So far, over 160,000 people have signed a petition asking the government to "come up with a long-term solution to the care crisis and declare that this issue will be a priority for the Government".

The petition urges the government to start an "NHS 'dementia fund' and consider a wide range of funding options, such as tax breaks for social care spending or an innovative care insurance scheme".

The petition was originally started by Mail reader Sharon Muranyi, 59, who sold her 92-year-old father Fred Hickman's cottage to pay for his dementia care.