A BRADFORD MP has joined forces with the Alzheimers Society to encourage more people to become Dementia Friends and raise public awareness of the condition.

Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, took part in a free training workshop to sign up to the scheme, which now boasts more than one million friends across England and Wales.

The charity has set a target of increasing that number to four million by 2020, as part of its long-term commitment to help more communities and businesses become dementia-friendly.

Anyone can become a friend by watching an online video or attending a face-to-face session, often delivered by one of 10,000 volunteer Dementia Friends Champions working in communities across the UK.

Paul Smithson, services manager for the Alzheimers Society, said the charity wanted to increase the number of Dementia Friends across the Bradford district.

"There are a number of dementia volunteers in Bradford, and they deliver formal sessions in places like schools and businesses, but also in social settings such as running clubs and other community groups," he said.

"There is a lot of positive work going on, but we still need to get the message out to the wider community that it is possible to live well with dementia.

"A dementia diagnosis isn't the end of everything, you can continue to live your life with the support of the community.

"We want people to have a more positive perception of dementia and have a greater understanding that it is an illness, and not a natural part of ageing.

"If anyone wants to be able to deliver this message, they can go on free training sessions to allow them to spread the word."

Dementia is an incurable condition caused by diseases of the brain which over time seriously impairs the ability of someone to live independently.

Symptoms can include severe memory loss, mood and personality changes, and behaviour that challenges others such as serious confusion, agitation, and aggression.

Bradford Council announced a new five-year 'dementia strategy' in May last year, stating that around 5,000 people across the district were affected by the condition, costing the economy £200million a year.

Ms Cummins said she wanted to ensure those caring for people with conditions such as Alzheimers had enough support and were aware of the services offered by the Dementia Friends programme.

"Sometimes people both caring for and living with dementia are hard to reach and left isolated, and I'll do anything to prevent that," she said.

"That is when people get left behind by the system and the stress gets too much to take.

"There are still mixed messages about dementia, some people think its just about people losing their memory, but its not, it's a progressive disease that people need support with.

"I just want to make sure no-one goes through dementia by themselves, and will talk to people locally and in Parliament to ensure we get the services people deserve here in Bradford South."

For more information, visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk.