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2012年9月 3日 (月)

認知症急増 在宅ケアの態勢作りが重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 3, 2012)
Promote at-home care for dementia sufferers
認知症急増 在宅ケアの態勢作りが重要だ(9月2日付・読売社説)

As the number of elderly people suffering from dementia continues to rise rapidly, it is crucial for all sectors of society to create a system that will enable such people to live at home.

According to estimates released on Aug. 24 by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, more than 3 million elderly people across the country suffer from dementia. This is one out of every 10 people aged 65 or older.

The ministry estimates the figure will reach 4.7 million in 2025. The growth in the number of the aged with dementia is alarmingly faster than projected.

The faster pace is due both to the rapid graying of society and to the increased number of people who are examined and diagnosed because of successful programs to raise awareness of the problem.

Advanced dementia can lead to such symptoms as wandering away, incontinence and even violence.

In many cases, family members of people suffering from dementia have become physically and mentally exhausted taking care of them and have opted to put them into mental hospitals. Such hospitalization tends to be long-term, averaging two years and seven months.


Support teams envisaged

The symptoms of people suffering from dementia are often aggravated after hospitalization, apparently due to such causes as changes in living environment and inadequate medication.

It is necessary to shift the priority in supporting elderly dementia patients from hospitals to home care.

Sixty percent of the approximately 52,000 people currently hospitalized with dementia could be discharged if arrangements were put in place to support them, including a system to promote home care.

Those who are hospitalized for dementia must feel frustrated that they cannot be at home, where they accustomed to being.

To help avoid longtime hospitalization of dementia patients, the health ministry plans to implement a new set of measures to promote their care at home, starting in fiscal 2013.

Under the program, the ministry will set up support teams nationwide that will comprise such experts as nurses, public health nurses and rehabilitation therapists for intensive care of people in the early stages of cognitive decline.

The support teams will visit the homes of the elderly to hear from them and their family members, while providing suggestions about how to deal with dementia symptoms at home.

In Britain, where a similar system was introduced in 2009, the number of people hospitalized for dementia has begun to decrease sharply. We hope to see such a favorable effect in this country, too.


Securing personnel urgent

To deal with elderly people with advanced dementia, the ministry plans to designate about 300 medical institutions as dementia centers. To facilitate quick responses to urgent requests from the families of dementia sufferers, the ministry is studying ways to enable doctors to make house calls on short notice.

The biggest obstacle to such measures remains a shortage of personnel. It is a matter of urgency to secure medical doctors, nurses and caregivers who are well versed in caring for patients with dementia.

Securing budgetary appropriations needed to implement the envisioned programs is also difficult.

Although people suffering from senile dementia tend to be viewed as unable to perform everyday activities, in many cases they remain emotionally stable and can engage in a range of activities.

Many people with dementia serve as volunteer workers, hoping to help others in spite of their own problems.

People providing medical and nursing care to those with dementia are urged to pay due attention to them to help them live in a way suited to their needs.

Efforts in local communities to establish frameworks that will facilitate helping the aged are also important.

To this end, some local governments have taken the initiative in enhancing support for the elderly, such as encouraging members of shopping district associations to learn about dementia.

Attention should be paid to such examples.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 2, 2012)
(2012年9月2日01時45分  読売新聞)


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