Toronto Star

Dementia search and rescue


Japan is introducin­g a kind of search-and-rescue program, where teams of social workers and medical profession­als look for people with dementia but have not been diagnosed. Today, a team visits a 92-yearold man in Machida, one of 41 cities testing this program (plans are to have teams in every city by 2018). A former artist, he is increasing­ly forgetful and prone to waking in the night, shouting. His 86-year-old wife is exhausted but has resisted help, insisting she can care for him.

After three visits, the four-person team coaxes the couple into seeing a doctor. For their fourth visit, the goal is to sign the man up for services covered by Japan’s long-term care insurance system. “We think the husband needs stimulatio­n, physically and mentally, and it’s better to reduce the wife’s burden,” social worker Furuya Masumi says.

Success! At the end of the hour, the couple has agreed to visit a daycare centre. The team will hold meetings to discuss this couple’s case; they will also continue regularly visiting them until their six months under the program are up. If the couple still refuses to accept outside care, the team will have to move on — but they will continue monitoring their well-being. “We will support them forever,” says psychiatri­c social worker Rei Takagi.

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