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Korean Dementia Care Lacking: Experts

Posted September. 21, 2006 05:59,   


His mother had symptoms of depression, and eventually the symptoms developed into severe dementia. These days, she would repeatedly leave home for no purpose and wander around the neighborhood until policemen or her neighbors found her and led her home.

Social Welfare Professor Choi Jae-sung of Yonsei University said, “Day care centers are the places where people with mild dementia can be treated from the early stages of the disease, but in many cases, people decide not to rely on such facilities due to negative thoughts attached to sending their parents to such care centers, and end up worsening their parents’ condition.”

Professor Choi pointed out, “In Korea, where family members should pay large amount of money to take care of the patient and the social welfare system is not fully in place, the most urgent task is to drastically expand the number of day care centers.

In day care centers, people can bring their parents to the center on their way to work and then go home together with them after work. It costs 150,000 won, which is relatively inexpensive compared to home medical care facilities, which cost over one million won.

The number of neglected senior citizens suffering from dementia has reached 270,000.

September 21 is World Alzheimer`s Day. Welfare experts are of the opinion that Korea’s various welfare systems lag behind those of advanced nations, but among them, the dementia is the most underdeveloped field.

According to Alzheimer`s Association Korea (AAK), the number of day care centers available for Alzheimer’s victims is 346 and only 5590 senior citizens with dementia are visiting those places.

There are more than 10,000 daycare centers in Japan, whose population is 120 million, two times larger population than that of Korea,

When it comes to the welfare systems related to senile dementia, the situation is even worse. Only 47,000 senior citizens with dementia visit welfare facilities for the elderly across the nation, and when it is combined with 40,000 home care volunteers deployed from such systems, the total number of dementia victims benefited from such facilities is only 90,000.

Given the fact that 8.3 percent of senior citizens in Korea, which is 360,000, are suffering from dementia, most of senile dementia victims, about 270,000 are neglected without any treatment.

Aggressive treatment is needed from the stage of mild dementia.

Mr. Kim (95), who is designated as Korea’s major intangible cultural asset in the field of chang, Korean traditional narrative song, and gayageum, which is a twelve-stringed Korean musical instrument, has recently regained his lost voice in a day care center.

His family had no idea whether Kim was suffering from dementia and they had cared him at home until they took him to Seoul National University Bundang hospital in August last year. After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they took him to the day care center of elderly welfare hall in Yong-in, Gyeonggi province.

Mr. Kim, who hadn’t said a word at home, started taking again.

When other patients at the center sing and if Mr. Kim notices their rhythm or tune is not right, he even give them a lecture and saying, “Sing properly!” as if he teaches his students. He has started talking again with other senior citizens only after he came to this center.

The manager of social welfare hall in Yong-in, Lee Kyeong-jin (social welfare service worker), said, “ The most severe problem in the case of dementia treatment is that family member end up aggravating the patients’ condition by locking them alone inside home with intention to ‘keep them safe and treat them nicely’.