• Kyodo

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About 80 percent of premature dementia patients have either had to quit their jobs or been fired by their employer, a health ministry survey showed Saturday.

The finding raises doubts about whether companies are helping employees under the age of 65 with dementia to continue working, for instance by shortening their work hours or transferring them to different sections.

The average age of people who develop premature dementia is 51.3. Symptoms vary among individuals, but patients who receive proper treatment at an early stage may be able to slow the advance of the disease.

The survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, commissioned to a dementia research center in Aichi Prefecture, was conducted between the summer and end of 2014 by mailing questionnaires to medical institutions and nursing care facilities in 15 prefectures.

It drew responses concerning 2,129 patients with dementia aged between 18 and 64, of whom 1,411 were confirmed to have held jobs prior to developing the disease.

Of the 1,411 patients, 996 decided to leave their job before the official retirement age of 60 and 119 were laid off, accounting for a combined 79 percent of the total.

The number of patients who worked until the official retirement age came to 135.

The survey also analyzed the cases of 383 patients in detail, as neither they nor their families had directly provided responses.

The number of those working at the time they developed premature dementia stood at 221, of whom 74 percent later quit their job or were dismissed.

About 20 percent of these 221 patients said their employers had not given them any kind of special consideration, such as allowing them to reduce their work hours.

Although patients with severe symptoms could face difficulties in the workplace, there may also be some cases in which patients could have continued to work if their companies had taken special measures.

A 2009 estimate by the health ministry put the number of people suffering from premature senility at about 38,000 nationwide. The disease often strikes when patients are in the prime of their working life, resulting in a financial blow to households if they lose their jobs.