National

Japan sees number of trained dementia care volunteers top 10 million

Kyodo

The number of people who have received training to assist people with dementia has surpassed 10 million in Japan, a support group for dementia sufferers has said.

As it is estimated that some 7 million people, or 1 in 5 elderly Japanese, may suffer from dementia by 2025, the government is eyeing the development of 12 million dementia care helpers by the end of fiscal 2020 as part of a national strategy to build supportive communities.

To become a volunteer supporter, a person needs to complete a 60- to 90-minute training session offered by local governments, schools and companies.

As of the end of March, 10.15 million people had completed the mandatory sessions, including instructors and those who have taken the course multiple times, according to the liaison council of the Dementia Supporter Caravan.

The sessions offer useful tips such as the need to remain calm and maintain gentle eye contact when talking to dementia sufferers, the council said.

Efforts by the group started in 2005 to raise social awareness about dementia.

Of the 10.15 million people, about 9.57 million participated in sessions held by local governments, while the others were trained by private firms, including financial institutions and operators of supermarkets, where employees may meet people with dementia on a daily basis.

There is no age restriction for becoming a volunteer, with about 2.1 million being aged 19 or younger.

Sayuri Inui, 75, of Kakogawa, Hyogo Prefecture, became a supporter when she was taking care of her mother, and was later certified as an instructor for the program.

“As my understanding of dementia deepened, I became able to accept symptoms” like being unable to perform simple calculations or forgetting the way home, Inui said.

Many local governments offer advanced sessions in which volunteers can learn more specialized knowledge about dementia and further improve their skills.