Japan’s aging population is continuously increasing and on top of this, more than 4 million people across the country are currently living with dementia; at a cost of which is about 1 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). Therefore, Japan is putting a lot of effort into confronting the issue by raising more awareness and increasing the understanding around dementia and how it affects not only the person with it, but also their families, the community, and the country as a whole.
Dementia is a term used to describe a decrease in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s which affects a person’s memory, behavior, and ability to think clearly. Early symptoms may sometimes appear minor in nature such as memory loss, challenges in planning or problem solving, difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home, in school or at leisure, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial objects and so on. These symptoms progress as the disease causes more damage to the brain.
Due to the increasing number of people being diagnosed with dementia, people with family members suffering from the disease are left having to care for them. Improved dementia care along with trying to detect dementia early, an increase in doctors and caregivers, was a huge focus in last year’s government proposals.
In 2014, approximately 11,000 people were reported temporarily missing due to dementia and in some cases, some were either abused or killed by their relatives. Several campaigns have gone into action to increase the understanding of dementia and to encourage those with dementia to express in their own words their thoughts and feelings around having to deal with the ongoing challenges that they’re faced with every day with dementia.
A budgeted plan of 22.5 billion yen has been proportioned to improve dementia care this year from April 2016. This is a great example of Japan acting as the global frontrunner to address the stigmatism around dementia by raising awareness and understanding.