Hospitals with emergency departments are having difficulty caring for people with dementia, a survey led by the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology says.
About 94 percent of the hospitals that replied said it was difficult to provide care to people with dementia when they are rushed in to treat injuries or illness, citing the risk of patients falling, miscommunicating or failing to cooperate on checkups and treatment.
The results — to be presented at an academic conference on dementia starting Saturday in Yokohama — are likely to raise concern that such patients may not get sufficient medical treatment when in need of urgent care.
Dementia is a pressing issue in Japan, where roughly 8.62 million people — or about 25 percent of the population above age 65 — either live with illness or are at risk of developing one. This number is expected to continue rising with the aging of the postwar baby boomers in a country with one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
Dementia, caused by the death of brain cells, leads to memory and language impairments that are severe enough to interfere with everyday activities.
Difficulty communicating with such patients was the main problem cited by hospitals that participated in the survey. In fiscal 2013, questionnaires were sent to 3,697 hospitals throughout Japan with emergency care departments and 589 provided valid responses.
More than 70 percent said they had to physically restrain patients with dementia, even though that is only allowed for “emergency or unavoidable cases” when providing nursing care.
The use of restraints and sedatives is under review in various countries.
The survey found that Japanese hospitals said they take such action to ensure “the safety of patients.”
With the cooperation of the Alzheimer’s Association Japan, the survey included responses to questionnaires sent to 500 people with dementia.
Of the approximately 300 who sought treatment by going to the emergency ward, 6.9 percent said they were not medically examined or had been refused hospitalization.
In the comments space, one person wrote he or she was told a family member had to be present round the clock in order to be admitted.
Another wrote of having difficulty walking after being physically restrained for two months by the hospital.
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