Recently in Korea, dementia has emerged as a social issue. In the Catholic Peace Weekly, a commentator on social issues gives the readers the problems of an aging society.
It's a known fact the government has no clear solution to the problem. Family members face extreme decisions, at times abuses of those placed in private sanatoriums, even death at the hands of the caregiver.
One of five are senior citizens and we have family members taking care of the aged for long periods, this becomes a burden and we have the killing of the person with dementia and at times followed by suicide. This is no longer only a problem of the sick but of society. Last year the number of cases of dementia was 750 thousand and by 2024 it will reach one million. As the percentage of long-term care for dementia patients increases—over half of the medical cost for the aged are for dementia—the cost of medical care will increase both for the families and government.
After the government proclamation that dementia will be a government responsibility to reduce the burden on families, prevention of dementia centers, peace of mind centers and villages were established. As of now, the short term care centers are decreasing for they are not making money; the care of the elderly in nursing homes for the seriously sick is becoming more of a problem.
In the past, dementia tended to be neglected considered a natural phenomenon of aging, but dementia requires profound and multifaceted care. Generally, dementia is regarded as a disease; care is needed to understand the demented elderly to mitigate or cope with behavioral problems through medication. In addition, alleviating symptoms of behavior, helping them live as a respected member of society.
In Japan and some advanced countries, where we have already entered into a super-aged society and 'killing caregivers' has become a social issue, we need to recognize the need for an interdisciplinary approach to dementia. It is worth noting that they also provide various welfare benefits to the families of demented elderly people who are also called "hidden patients". It is a policy that expects to continue the role of caring by recognizing the economic constraints and many difficulties in caring for the demented.
Until now, most of the dementia patients are cared for by their families. Pope Francis emphasizes "care for the elderly" requires a holistic medical, spiritual, and psychological approach in the home, society, and church. This is because it is something only human beings can do: caring for the enhancement of human worth and dignity of demented elderly people.
Currently, the 'Third Dementia Management Plan' is in operation, hoping to reduce the burden of dementia by a continuous support system with wide community coverage. However, we still have division and competition within areas of health and welfare. Limitation in selection and care are noted. There needs to be mutual complementarity but at present only an awkward connection.
The many facets in the care of patients with dementia, at the beginning stage, does not allow for any pause in the care. Due to the nature of the chronic progression of the disease, prevention and management should be done together. It should be ensured that the country and the citizens actively assist in the care, always concerned with the human dignity of the sick.