Home Care in Chapel Hill: Look East for Dementia Care Strategies

January 15, 2015

Dementia is a global health concern.  Sometimes, in tackling big problems, it’s helpful to see what other countries are doing.  The UK, for example, has been leading the pack with its national “Dementia Friendly Communities” campaign.   Japan recently stepped up to the plate with a national strategy called the “New Orange Plan”.  It’s aimed at creating a society that understands dementia and allows sufferers to age in place, in their communities.  Japan has an estimated eight million people who are suffering with dementia.

Japan is no stranger to dealing with the challenges of an older society.  Among major countries, Japan is the oldest in the world.  The median age is 44; in the US, it’s 37.  Today, one-fourth of the population is over 65.  By 2035, one third of all Japanese will be 65 or older.

The New Orange Plan comprises seven areas, including increasing awareness of the disease.  Other measures will focus on the creation of resources to address missing persons and the promotion of preventative measures and treatment.

It’s noteworthy that the consistent theme among all national strategies (other countries with dementia plans include France, Australia and Belgium) is awareness.

As there is no cure for dementia, something as simple as raising awareness is one of the most prudent things we can do.  Dementia is the invisible disability.  If we see a man in a wheelchair, we don’t expect him to get up and walk.  Yet, we may get annoyed when the silver-haired man in front of us takes a huge amount of time paying for his groceries.  We have no way of knowing that he might be suffering from dementia and unable to understand his bill.

Specific steps in the Japan plan include:

  • Creation of interaction between dementia sufferers and school children, in order to improve understanding between generations
  • Development of a watch system to find people who wander and go missing due to dementia.
  • Creation of a program to encourage dementia sufferers to discuss their feelings.
  • Development of initiatives that will allow dementia sufferers to stay part of their community, via programs that support employment and participation in organizations.

 

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