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Thursday, Sep. 6, 2012

New 'flow of care' to steer dementia patients away from hospitals

Jiji

The health ministry will step up efforts to address the increase in elderly people suffering from dementia, aiming to change the "flow of care," under a five-year program starting in fiscal 2013.

"We will create a society where people (with dementia) can continue to live in familiar places as they wish," says Kazue Fujita, parliamentary secretary for health, labor and welfare.

With the population aging rapidly, the ministry forecasts that the number of senior citizens with dementia will reach 2.89 million in 2020, or 8.4 percent of people aged 65 or over, 3.53 million in 2030, or 10.2 percent, and 3.85 million in 2040, or 10.6 percent.

At present, if dementia patients become violent or harm themselves in their daily lives, they may be sent to a mental hospital if their families or group homes are unable to cope with them. In 2008, there were some 52,000 people with dementia in mental hospitals, up from 28,000 in 1996, and their long-term stays have become a serious problem for such facilities.

A project team set up by the ministry pointed out in a report that delays in initial responses to people who show symptoms of dementia contribute to unnecessary hospitalizations.

Fujita said that it has been widely believed people with dementia must be kept in mental hospitals or related facilities. But this "flow of care" needs to be changed, she added.

The steps the ministry will launch in fiscal 2013 include the formation of support teams of about three nurses and other dementia experts to visit families and advise on early diagnosis.

Akira Honma, who heads a research and training center in Tokyo for caregivers of people with dementia, said that the advance of the condition is predictable if patients receive treatment from an early stage.



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