Dementia Disability Japan

Japan must work to ensure dignified lives for people with dementia [Yomiuri Shimbun Editorial]

“In 2015, about 5.2 million people in Japan had dementia, and this number is estimated to rise to about 7 million in 2025. For those 65 and older, 20 percent have dementia. The dementia prevalence rate increases with advancing age, so the morbidity rate is expected to continue to rise thereafter.”

From The Yomiuri Shimbun

May 20th 2019

Create a society in which people with dementia are able to live with peace of mind while maintaining their dignity. To realize this amid the arrival of the era of the 100-year life, efforts must be accelerated in the public and private sectors.

The government has compiled a draft outline of new policies to be carried out to bolster countermeasures against dementia. The outline covers a period through 2025 when the first postwar baby boomers become 75 and older, setting for the first time a numerical goal of lowering the dementia morbidity rate. The outline will be officially approved in June.

In 2015, about 5.2 million people had dementia, and this number is estimated to rise to about 7 million in 2025. For those 65 and older, 20 percent have dementia. The dementia prevalence rate increases with advancing age, so the morbidity rate is expected to continue to rise thereafter.

The government drew up an overall strategy in 2015 to deal with dementia and has since carried out such projects as the expansion and improvement of medical treatment and nursing-care services. Based on these experiences, the outline prioritizes measures to prevent the onset and progress of dementia, and to enable people with dementia to continue to live in familiar communities.

Extend the period in which elderly people are able to live independently and create regional communities where understanding of and cooperation toward people with dementia are deeply rooted. This is desirable for senior citizens and makes it possible to expect an effect of preventing social security expenses from further swelling. This must be promoted steadily.

As for preventive measures, the draft sets a goal of reducing the dementia morbidity rate of people in their 70s by 6 percent in the next six years. In other words, the morbidity rate is targeted for a decrease from the current 3.6 percent to 3.4 percent for people 70 to 74 and from the current 10.4 percent to 9.8 percent for people 75 to 79.

Because ameliorating a lack of physical exercise and resolving social isolation are considered to be effective preventive measures against dementia, the draft outline has listed a concrete measure to expand communal places, including exercise studios and lounges to promote interaction in which the elderly are able to casually take part. 

A matter to note is that a method has yet to be established to curb the onset and progression of dementia. It is necessary to promote parallel scientific research and study and connect these efforts to the development and prevalence of effective preventive methods.

Placing too much emphasis on preventive measures must not lead to a social trend of people with dementia being subject to criticism.

To help sustain the lives of people who have dementia, not only medical treatment and nursing care are called for, but also multifaceted approaches such as securing means of transportation, keeping track of finances and preventing consumer damage and abuse.

The draft outline calls for supporting local residents in activities to watch over people with dementia and building communities in which these people are able to go shopping and move about easily. It is important for administrative offices, regional economic organizations and specialist personnel to have close cooperation in this regard.

Partly due to the spread of early diagnosis, the number of people with dementia and parties concerned talking about their own experiences and thoughts has been increasing. Voices of people with dementia and their family members should be reflected in government policies against dementia.

Japan’s population has been aging at the fastest pace in the world. The government is called on to establish a support system oriented toward parties concerned and present it as a model for the world.

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