The Japanese approach

Japan hosted a global dementia legacy event in November  (the first was


held in Britain in December 2013).  I read an article recently in the Guardian about dementia in Japan which made me sit up and think about the different cultural attitudes to dementia. The text in italics is directly from the article published on 18th November. The full article can be found at:

Whilst political leaders are promoting their policies, it seems like communities are doing more to help those amongst them with dementia to live well. Volunteer led communities are promoting dementia friendly behaviour to help those with dementia live well and safely in the community:

“Japanese families, carers and wider community members are providing low key, informal and seemingly effective social care, compassion and support.

Across Japan, 5.4 million trained volunteers known as “dementia friends” are being efficiently managed by only four full time paid staff. Many of them are beginning to form task forces and are enjoying a free hand as they introduce an imaginative range of dementia care and support programmes which are friendly and flexible – and which can flourish in the climate of trust.

The key feature of these – and other initiatives – is that they are local, based on voluntary support and are unencumbered by restrictive bureaucracy.

Created in early 2014, the latest example of the open house – “Suzu-no-ya” – scheme is run by volunteers who offer local residents with dementia and their carers the weekly opportunity to access all-day care including lunch and tea. Drop-in facilities also include informal advice and peer support for carers, backed up by a 24 hour phone carer support line. The open house concept embraces normalisation through familiar, relaxed and friendly surroundings. The scheme takes places in volunteers own houses, or in low cost, empty rented houses. There are 8.2m empty properties in Japan – 13.5% of the national housing stock~

You must all know by now that I have strong views on ‘wander walking’. The Japanese appear to have taken a more practical and supportive route – no mention of medication or restrictive practices:

“Neighbourhood-watch style networks specifically look out for the 10,300 “wanderers”; people with dementia who become lost and confused away from home. Led by volunteers, who act in partnership with the police, local businesses and charities, the network helps to steer wanderers safely home, and provides invaluable support and reassurance for carers and families. It is also an essential safety net for those living with dementia. 61.3% of Japan’s 1,741 local authorities embrace the scheme. Taken seriously, wanderer alert drills are practiced on a regular basis – and the scheme is officially endorsed”.

I hope these communities are involving those with dementia in their practical day to day decision making……….

We have many initiatives around the world to include those with dementia in social policy. Whilst this article does raise questions about the serious need for more government intervention, it does show that by simply being a ‘caring community’, and looking after those who live around you, many more with dementia could safely continue to live in their own home. Just looking out for neighbours and those who live in your community could make ‘living’ a more pleasant experience, not only for those with dementia but for everyone.  A ‘People Friendly Society’.

About wendy7713

On the 31st July 2014 I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I may not have much of a short term memory anymore but that date is one I’ll never forget. I’m 58 years young, live happily alone in Yorkshire, have 2 daughters and I’m currently still in full time employment in the NHS. However, I’m now in the process of taking early retirement to give me a chance of enjoying life while I’m still me. I've started this blog to allow me, in the first instance, to write all my thoughts before they’re lost. If anyone chooses to follow my ramblings it will serve as a way of raising awareness on the lack of research into Alzheimer's. It will hopefully convey the helplessness of those diagnosed with dementia, as there is no cure – the end is inevitable. However, I’m also hoping I can convey that, although we've been diagnosed, people like me still have a substantial contribution to make; we still have a sense of humour; we sill have feelings. I’m hoping to show the reality of trying to cope on a day to day basis with the ever-changing environment that dementia throws at those diagnosed with the condition. What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.

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