On March 1, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling over a train accident that involved an elderly man who had dementia. The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about how Japan is planning to take care of its population of dementia patients.
Question: What national plans have been made for dementia patient care?
Answer: The national government is aiming to create a society where dementia patients and other residents can live side-by-side. To bring this about, in fiscal 2013 it began its "Orange Plan" -- a five-year plan to shift the core of dementia care from facilities to the home. The government subsequently created its "New Orange Plan" in 2015, which includes policies for allowing dementia patients to continue living in the communities that they have grown used to.
Q: How many dementia patients are there in Japan?
A: According to government statistics, there were 4.62 million people with dementia in Japan in 2012 -- a number that is expected to soar to between 6.75 million and 7.3 million by 2025. This estimation would mean that one in five people aged 65 or over has dementia. With the increase in dementia patients, it would not be strange to see an upsurge in accidents after dementia patients have wandered off on their own, as happened in the case covered by the recent Supreme Court ruling.
Q: How does the government plan to prevent those kinds of accidents?
A: The New Orange Plan advocates community environments that look out for dementia patients, by promoting the creation of protective networks between local area organizations and residents that are tasked with keeping watch over dementia sufferers to quickly find them in case they go missing.
Q: Are those kinds of measures being widely adopted?
A: According to a survey, 616 municipalities -- or about 35 percent of all municipalities nationwide -- were implementing protective network projects as of April 2014 to keep watch over dementia patients. Meanwhile, the national government is also continuing to encourage such projects.
The city of Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, known for its progressive efforts at tackling elder care issues, has set up a system that allows municipal officials to email residents with the names and photos of missing dementia patients. Additionally, the city conducts mock community searches whereby people play the part of dementia sufferers who have wandered off and gone missing. (Answers by Masakatsu Yamamoto, City News Department)