Welfare ministry seeks funding to pair dementia patients with volunteer supporters

JIJI, Kyodo

The welfare ministry plans to launch a project in fiscal 2019 to provide better aid to dementia patients by matching them with volunteer supporters, informed sources said.

The project will include providing subsidies to coordinators that connect dementia patients and their families with supporters who would, for instance, tag along when they go out or do casual exercise.

The ministry plans to earmark funds in its budget request for fiscal 2019 starting next April, the sources said Sunday.

Prefectural governments will be in charge of the project. The ministry is considering allowing them to outsource it to municipalities.

Anyone can become a dementia supporter after learning about the disease through training programs held across the country.

Introduced in 2005 by the health ministry to raise awareness about dementia, some 10.3 million people were registered as dementia supporters as of the end of June. They use orange wristbands as a symbol for dementia support.

Although the number of supporters is on the rise, many have been inactive. The ministry expects the project to create more opportunities for supporters to take action.

Support for patients in the early stages of dementia helps prevent their condition from worsening rapidly. The ministry estimates there were some 4.62 million dementia patients in Japan as of 2012, a number that is projected to reach 7 million in 2025.