Health plan targets elderly with early symptoms

All municipalities to get dementia teams by 2015

JIJI

The health ministry has decided to form teams of dementia experts in every municipality in the country to give intensive support to early-stage patients in a bid to prevent symptoms from worsening and long hospital stays.

The teams will be composed of nurses, social workers and caretakers, as well as doctors specializing in dementia treatment.

Starting in fiscal 2015, the teams will be set up at existing medical and welfare support centers run by local municipalities.

The experts will provide consultations for seniors with symptoms suggestive of dementia, such as memory loss or behavioral changes, and their families.

The team members will then visit the homes of the potential sufferers to determine whether they need medical treatment or nursing care, and help contact hospitals or care facilities to make sure they can receive services.

Even after patients start receiving services from hospitals or care facilities, team members will regularly visit their homes to check the progression of their symptoms, offer explanations about how they will change, and advise them on their daily lives.

The teams will offer the support for a maximum of six months, with responsibility for their care shifting to the patients’ personal physicians or certified care managers afterward.

The number of elderly dementia patients has been rising and is expected to reach 4.7 million in 2025, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

“We need to extensively publicize the availability of these expert teams so that elderly people can seek their help when they feel something is wrong” even if their illness is only at a very early stage, a ministry official said.