Having used this column previously to highlight some of the important issues around dementia diagnosis rates, as well as the really fantastic work the Alzheimer’s Society do across the country to support those affected, I was really pleased to be invited to the launch of their new Dementia Friends scheme at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff recently.

Free, volunteer-led sessions that aim to give people a better understanding of dementia itself, the Dementia Friends sessions will also provide information, support and advice, as well as providing tips on some of the practical things people can do to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society have set an ambitious target of encouraging 4,000 people in Wales to attend a Dementia Friends session by 2015, in the hope that it will make a real difference to the 45,000 people across Wales we know are living with some form of dementia.

It may surprise some that two thirds of those affected live within the community rather than within a care setting; and with surveys suggesting that only half of sufferers feel connected to their local area and to those around them this is a really important issue.

Indeed, it would be fantastic if this scheme helped foster the kind of dementia friendly communities the Alzheimer’s Society hope to see across Wales in the future.

I know from personal experience just how difficult it is for people with dementia to cope with the huge changes it can bring to their daily lives, as well as the very real challenges it can bring for their loved ones.

And although there are a number of complex issues around dementia where I’d like to see more progress in the years ahead – not least the shockingly low diagnosis rates that continue to be huge problem, particularly here in Wales – I think this is a really positive initiative.

Indeed, I’m keen to personally attend a Dementia Friends session myself and have recently been in touch with the Alzheimer’s Society with a view to getting involved. If you are interested in becoming a Dementia Friend yourself, you can register online at www.dementiafriends.org.uk/register/friend.

Meanwhile, if you are worried about dementia, the advice from the Alzheimer’s Society is to contact your GP without delay; Torfaen residents wanting more information and support can also contact the Alzheimer’s Society local office on (01495)768627, and those outside the area can contact the National Dementia Helpline on (0300)2221122.