Record 16,000 people with dementia went missing in 2017

Kyodo, JIJI

People with dementia getting lost and going missing continues to be a serious problem in Japan’s rapidly aging society. Highlighting the issue, a record 15,863 dementia patients were reported missing in 2017, police data showed Thursday.

A total of 227 were still not found by the end of the year, according to the National Police Agency. The number of missing person reports increased 431 from 2016 and represented a 65 percent rise from 2012, when comparable data became available.

Local police have been working with municipal authorities to find wandering dementia patients more quickly, and some introduced new methods such as the prior registration of the pattern of veins in an individual’s palm and other information, as well as the creation of databases of those with dementia for quick and accurate identification.

Some 14 percent of Japan’s population of 127 million are age 75 or older. The number of elderly people with dementia is expected to reach 7 million in 2025, according to a government estimate.

Including those reported missing in previous years, the whereabouts of 10,129 people were discovered by the police in 2017, 5,037 returned home by themselves or were found by their families, and 470 were found dead.

The survey showed 72.7 percent were located on the day their disappearance was reported to police. Some 99.3 percent were found within a week.

The overall number of people who went missing last year, including those not suffering dementia, stood at 84,850.

Of those, 55,939 people were thought to have been involved in crimes and accidents or to have died by suicide, according to the agency.

By prefecture, Osaka had the biggest number of people suffering from dementia reported missing last year with 1,801. Saitama came next with 1,734, followed by Hyogo with 1,396.