Japan is well-known for its community-centric culture where people care for each other well. As the world faces a looming Alzheimer’s disease and dementia epidemic, Japan is confronting the disease through training sessions, equipping everyday citizens to identify signs of dementia, prevent wandering, and get help.
Learn more about how Japan is launching training programs to protect their seniors and raise Alzheimer’s awareness through community care.
Growing Dementia Population Calls for Community Care in Japan
Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia are reaching epidemic proportions, and as of yet, there is no cure or treatment for the disease. With nearly 27% of Japan’s population being over the age of 65, the country is seeing the effects of Alzheimer’s first hand.
The Japanese government has estimated that by 2025, more than 7 million people in Japan will have dementia. Last year, the National Police Agency in Japan reported that 12,208 people with dementia went missing. While most were found alive, 150 were never found and 479 were found dead.
These staggering numbers have led the country to launch a comprehensive plan for coping with the epidemic. Matsudo is one dementia friendly city, conducting regular trainings on identifying signs of dementia and interacting with seniors who have the disease. The city also has a volunteer group, called the Orange Patrol. The name in Japanese (olenji koe kake tai) loosely translates to “troop that calls out to the elderly.” As awkward as that translation may be, it’s exactly what the group does. By striking up simple conversations with seniors, these volunteers can determine if the senior is okay, or if they need extra assistance.
Atsuko Yoshioka teachers dementia awareness classes in Matsudo. She says the classes are just an hour or an hour and a half and she tries to customize the class for the people taking it, addressing concerns from each profession and helping postal workers, pharmacists, and more interact and care for people with dementia.
How Dementia Awareness Training Serves Seniors in Japan
These classes are part of Japan’s national plan to address dementia which includes nursing, prevention and research services. It also features a campaign for increasing dementia awareness. The Japanese government expects to have 8 million people trained by the end of the next fiscal year.
Hidenori Kawashima is the deputy director for dementia policy in Japan’s Ministry of Labor, Health, and Welfare. Given the expected rates of dementia, Kawashima believes interacting people with dementia will become normal. He says:
“It would be a familiar thing. So we wanted the plan: First, to create a structure in the local communities to support those with dementia and, second, to create a society where it will be natural for them to live.”
What do you think of Japan’s plan to train everyday citizens to identify and protect seniors with dementia through community care? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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