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Over 10,000 dementia sufferers went missing in 2013

22 Comments

More than 10,000 people suffering from dementia went missing for various periods of time in 2013, the National Police Agency (NPA) said Thursday.

According to police figures, 10,322 people, reported by their families to be suffering from senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease, went missing, NTV reported. The number is 715 more than in 2012.

Of the total, the NPA said 388 were found dead, and 258 remained missing as of April 30, including some missing for more than a year. Most of the people who wandered off were located within hours; in other cases, they were found days later after having been taken into protective custody by police, the NPA said.

The issue has been getting a lot of coverage in the media recently. Many cases involve elderly couples who do not live with their children and have no one to look in on them. Often, the husband or wife who is suffering from dementia, wanders off while their spouse is having a nap, cleaning a room or out shopping.

Complicating the problem is that dementia sufferers frequently wander off without their wallets, cell phones with GPS tracking systems or any ID. Even if they are taken into protective custody, police have no way to identify them.

The NPA said Thursday it will create a registry of persons with dementia who are found wandering aimlessly, and who have no ID on them. The registry will include their photos so that relatives can search for their missing family members.

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22 Comments
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Is this in Japan? Or America?

Surely it would be a better idea to create a registry and add people to it, before they go missing. Not after.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Student told me she was taking a walk in her neighborhood when she saw an elderly man standing in the middle of the road. He asked her confusedly "where is my home?" She didn't know what to do to help him.

Another student was driving when an elderly woman flagged him down and asked him to take her to the station to meet her daughter ... it turned out the police were very familiar with this lady, she did the same thing whenever she absconded from her nursing home!

Everyone I know has stories like these.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Not surprising, given the (lack of) care provided here.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

That's going to become like the number of heatstrokes, from now, they'll announce broken record every season. Even if children live with them, they can't spend 24/14 at it. Only a team of pros in a special facility can do it.

wander off without their wallets, cell phones with GPS tracking systems or any ID.

In my family, we have our names on our clothes and accessories but...

police have no way to identify them.

... but, but... isn't that convenient for the families ? I wouldn't blame them. Many are desperately waiting for a room in a specialised nursing home, so police custody is not a bad alternative and it's free. That even works as a temporary accommodation. Let's say you are going on a 2 week vacation, you let granny in a park next to a koban... and you go claim her when you're back. Then in case the elderly is involved in an accident, JR and other companies won't be able to identify and sue the relatives.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Complicating the problem is that dementia sufferers frequently wander off without their wallets, cell phones with GPS tracking systems or any ID.

There are already GPS tracking bracelets for the elderly. I've never seen one in use in Japan, nor have I ever heard a doctor recommending one. Some of these are fantastic devices, allowing you to input normal routes and a normal area of operation. If the person strays outside of their normal patterns a family member gets alerted and can look up where they are. They're also great for kids, where you can input their normal home to school route, their friends' houses, and anywhere else they're allowed to go, and it'll ping you if they unexplainedly leave the town (e.g. kidnapping) or end up in a strange area.

Most models also have an emergency button for when the person feels confused, worried or gets disoriented (if they remember to press it), and some have additional features like measuring heart rate and alerting caregivers automatically if the heart rate move above or below a preset value for more a certain amount of time (e.g. disoriented and panicked = high heart rate, low heart rate can indicate anything from injury or illness to a heart attack).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Sorry, but I found the irony of the headline quite amusing. However, Alzheimer’s disease is a serious problem and a growing problem in Japan as the population ages. Alzheimer’s has been directly linked to bad sleeping habits and because most Japanese only sleep 5-7 hours (or less) a night from their teens of course Alzheimer’s is very previlant in Japan. Also, as someone else stated, there is a major lack of professional care facilities and not just for Alzheimer’s sufferers, but for aged care in general. Japanese culture has a reputation for respecting and caring for the elderly, but the reality is quite different.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

GPS bracelets work for this. As long as you have someone who cares enough to check....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

yepp, even today I saw 90+ dude trying to use a suica to get thru my office bldg tourniquet ... the guard had hard time explaining him it is not a train station

2 ( +2 / -0 )

10,000 aged missing + maybe over 10,000 children that's a lot of missing people. Shouldn't there be a government department? Ahhh there is. Great job.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

My grandfather often went walkabout. Pretty scary. We would find him in the bush looking for his home . The sad part was when we would find him he would be in the area of his childhood home which hadnt been there for about 70 years. He was about 90.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With a large aging population (both Japan and USA face the same problem) the situation will only be getting worst. My suggestion is to attach tracking devices to them so you can get a GPS location on them when needed. We do this to criminals in the USA so the technology is there!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So what is Japan going to do about this problem? Blame adult children and the spouses of these folks? Perhaps time to start fingerprinting the locals like we are? I shudder to think how much money is spent on housing and searching for these people. I'd much rather my taxes go to homes and care for these families.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Missing cases, or missing people?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As a western person I have always been under the impression that the elderly were revered in Asia, has that changed so much in the last generation? ( It seems to be happening all over the world btw not only in Asia)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just pray you don't suffer from dementia. Of all diseases, this really dehumanises - humans are set apart by our brains.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As a western person I have always been under the impression that the elderly were revered in Asia, has that changed so much in the last generation?

Yes, it has changed dramatically even within one generation. The reason that the elderly used to be so revered was that there were so few of them, but nowadays it seems like they are in the majority. In my neighborhood, I can go for a walk and literally never encounter another person under the age of 65. In fact, a sixty-year-old would be regarded as young around here. It's widely believed that the number of elderly people in Japan is putting a huge strain on social and medical services, and naturally young working people are feeling the strain.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

here are already GPS tracking bracelets for the elderly. I've never seen one in use in Japan

I have seen many J-elderly with them. The issue is dementia people are able to take the bracelet off, like they take the wallet and phone out of their pocket, and then they go wandering, Now putting them the type used for convicts... I dunno, that's a bit too much. And that doesn't solve the problem that relatives can't always be there to run after them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've been fortunate that none in my family suffered from dementia. (So far...) Some of my friends have had a parent or grandparent who suffered from Alzheimer's and all of them cared for that family member at home. It's easy to sympathize with someone who has a loved one regressing but to actually empathize one has to experience how the disease progressively renders the affected one to a shell of a human being. Before talking to my friends about the horrors of Alzheimer's, I just knew the person's memory was affected and when confused or agitated would become really strong and lash out. Unable to recall a family member or friend is not the only aspect. It's also forgetting how to swallow, forgetting how to make a bowel movement... Since the burden of caring for a senile family member at home is met with resignation, there may be a niche to fill here. The government or the private sector should look into building nursing homes/assisted living facilities, encourage this children to study science to become nurses/doctors/medical personnel or look into creating robots/technology to take over care for the elderly. (I know there are the kawaii fluffy things - seals, dogs, cats - that serve as an interactive companion but Japan needs to step it up and fast.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is this Japan or America ? What is the meaning of that statement ? As a Physician who has worked in both countries, I can say those numbers are an embarrassment and doesn't happen in the USA. The difference is that in the USA, geriatrics generally live in secured environments - gated communities; independent living facilities; skilled nursing facilities or Deed communities.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think our generation(s) is/are going the same route. We get so caught up with roadways and transit issues and we put off the whole retirement question right to the end. None of us would chose Alzheimer's... none of us would ever chose or prepare for any kind of dementia. But it seems that 'the greatest generation' didn't accept the fact that the requirements and the resources needed to care for the millions of sufferers everywhere also had to be a concern.

Even if we had care centers and hospitals just for dementia patients we would never be able to prepare for the one on one care needed for this kind of patient.

Not to mention that frail old ladies who care for their terribly ill husbands lose in court when the dementia patient wanders infront of a train or causes any other kind of damage.

We're going there too. We're losing sleep, we're susceptible but we aren't preparing anything..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, it has changed dramatically even within one generation. The reason that the elderly used to be so revered was that there were so few of them, but nowadays it seems like they are in the majority. In my neighborhood, I can go for a walk and literally never encounter another person under the age of 65. In fact, a sixty-year-old would be regarded as young around here. It's widely believed that the number of elderly people in Japan is putting a huge strain on social and medical services, and naturally young working people are feeling the strain.

Or is it that they used to die at a much earlier age so folks didn't have to "put up" with them as long? I'm not even kidding when I ask this. Many folks are living well beyond their years - ie lights on, no one home and supported by all kinds og drugs and machines. My PIL have had to deal with my GMIL who has pretty much been senile since I met my husband - 10 years ago. She's was just finally put up in a hospital about a year ago. Frankly, and this is going to be harsh but anyway, she's a drain on everyone. She's not "there" but is "alive". The PIL had to deal with her alone, then they got help and now she's in a bed with zero qualiity of life. No dignity in that. Japan seriously needs to start looking at the number of vegetables they are proping up with limited tax money and resources and families need to start taking a stand. My husband's family are all complaining she hasn't kicked the bucket yet and they are tired of paying for her. It that harsh and someone gross? Yep but understandable when you think that no one has had a decent conversation with her in nearly a decade. She's at least in a hospital. How many others are suffering under the stress of caring for someone similar alone or with limited help?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japan seriously needs to start looking at the number of vegetables they are proping up with limited tax money and resources and families need to start taking a stand. My husband's family are all complaining she hasn't kicked the bucket yet and they are tired of paying for her.

I have heard dozens of stories like this. Some of them are truly heartbreaking (women sacrificing careers and even forgoing motherhood because of having to deal with elderly, senile relatives) and others are quite shocking (lifelong housewives shoving their parents into care homes at the earliest available opportunity, so that they can get on with their coffee klatches and hula lessons undisturbed). One problem seems to be the prevalence of stomach tube feeding. I've read that the cost of feeding a bedridden patient using this method is about five million yen a year (just the feeding, not the general care and hospitalisation).

It's not a simple matter to say "let them go." One of my students, a woman in her 60s, hopes that her bedridden, comatose mother stays alive as long as possible because she really does rely on the pension money the mother generates for her (she passes it along to her own children, who are struggling with finances). If her mother dies, she'll lose that money. On the other hand, if her mother continues to live on, the state will lose money, and so will we the taxpayers. There are no easy solutions in this case.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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