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Japanese City Confronts Dementia Through Community Care

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 2, 2019

Last Updated: January 2, 2019

Japan is well-known for its community-centric culture, but many people are unaware of how the country’s culture extends to the dementia epidemic. Japan is confronting the disease through training programs, equipping its citizens to know how to identify signs of dementia and prevent wandering.

Learn more about how Japan is launching training sessions to raise dementia awareness and protect parents and senior loved ones through community care.

A Growing Dementia Epidemic Calls for Community Care in Japan

Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia are reaching epidemic proportions and there is currently 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 dementia 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 dementia epidemic. Matsudo, Japan is one dementia-friendly city, conducting regular training 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.” By striking up simple conversations with seniors, these volunteers can determine if the senior is okay, or if they need extra assistance.

Atsuko Yoshioka teaches dementia awareness classes in Matsudo. She says the classes are just an hour or an hour and a half long and that she tries to customize the class for the people taking it, addressing concerns from each profession and helping everyone from pharmacists to postal workers, care for and interact with people with dementia.

How Dementia Training Serves Seniors

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 eight million people trained by the end of the next fiscal year.

The Deputy Director for Dementia Policy in Japan’s Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare, Hidenori Kawashima, believes that given the expected rates of dementia, interacting with 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 its citizens to identify and protect seniors with dementia through community care? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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