Last week, a 47-year-old woman was arrested for killing her 81-year-old mother and "assisting" in the suicide of her 74-year-old father. The woman had been found on the banks of the Tone River in Saitama Prefecture, into which she and her parents had driven in order to drown themselves.

Actually, the mother did not necessarily have that intention because she suffered from dementia. The woman told police she had been taking care of her mother full-time, and that after her father fell ill and could no longer work delivering newspapers, they decided to die. A neighbor told Asahi Shimbun that the woman was a devoted daughter.

The welfare ministry projects that there will be about 7 million people with dementia in Japan by 2025. There were 4.62 million in 2012. The Saitama family may not be typical in terms of their fate, but they are typical in that they couldn't afford the kind of care they thought they should provide for a loved one whose cognitive faculties were gone. The government offers welfare assistance to those who qualify, and home nursing care up to a point, but it isn't always enough. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed improved services to eliminate the need for people to quit their jobs so they can take care of ailing parents.