• Kyodo

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The killer earthquakes in Niigata Prefecture have forced about 1,000 elderly people who need nursing care to live in facilities away from their homes.

With aftershocks continuing and many people living in temporary shelters, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has urged the Niigata Prefectural Government to consider measures under the nursing care insurance system.

These measures would enable the provision of at-home services for the elderly, even in places other than their homes, and reduce their nursing-care insurance premiums.

According to data at the end of March, 84,000 people, some of them bedridden, in Niigata Prefecture had been certified as needing nursing care.

The earthquakes, which first struck Oct. 23, have forced 700 to 800 senior citizens to evacuate their homes and move to facilities such as special nursing homes for the elderly. Another 200 to 300 are staying at schools and other evacuation centers.

Overall, about 35,000 people in Niigata are still living in shelters as a result of the quakes.

On Thursday, the health ministry notified the prefecture that municipalities can decide on measures to ease the financial burden on elderly people.

The ministry also said it is possible for elderly people who have not been certified as requiring nursing care to avail themselves of nursing care services in line with the aged persons’ welfare law.

“Even elderly people who are healthy now are at risk of being in need of nursing care in the event their health deteriorates from living in inconvenient conditions at evacuation centers or temporary shelters,” an official of Niigata’s welfare and health division said.

The division is set to provide at-home services to elderly people at the shelters. The division said it has also sought the help of health-care workers and volunteers who have gathered from around the nation to offer assistance to quake victims.

Special nursing care facilities in Kawaguchi and Uonuma were badly damaged. About 150 people living in those facilities have evacuated to various facilities in and outside Niigata.

To cope with the growing number of elderly who need assistance, some facilities are filled to 30 percent over capacity, the division said.

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