National

After hearing concerns, Japan won't set target for cutting number of dementia patients after all

Kyodo

The government will scrap a draft proposal that set a numerical target for reducing the number of dementia patients, health minister Takumi Nemoto said Tuesday, citing concerns from patients and their families that they could blame themselves for failing to prevent the disease.

Last month, the government proposed its first numerical goal on the disease — which involves a decline in cognition including memory loss — aiming to reduce the number of patients in their 70s by 10 percent over the next decade.

The proposal was aimed at curbing growth in welfare spending at a time when the population is rapidly graying, but questions were raised because preventive measures are not scientifically proven.

Additionally, the numerical goal had been widely seen as shifting away from the policy of creating a society where people can live comfortably even if they develop dementia.

“We’ve heard from concerned parties that people who got dementia, despite trying their best to prevent it, would feel that they failed and lose their confidence,” Nemoto said at a news conference.

The government will focus on efforts leading to good outcomes, rather than the number of patients, he added.

The “prevention” mentioned in the proposal would now be defined as “delaying the onset of dementia and slowing the development of symptoms once patients develop them,” Nemoto said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet is expected to approve the guidelines on measures to cope with dementia later this month.

An estimate by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has predicted some 7 million people will have dementia in 2025, when the country’s baby boomers reach 75 years of age or older.

In 2015, the government compiled a national strategy to support dementia patients by organizing local “dementia supporters” — people who have knowledge of the disease and are able to provide help to sufferers and their families.

Specific measures for disease prevention include holding exercise lessons at local community centers, as it has been found that physical activity and social engagement could help prevent the disease.