5 things I learned in Japan

Alzheimer Disease International holds a conference every year and it is a unique opportunity to bring together everyone with an interest in dementia – staff and volunteers of Alzheimer’s Associations, people living with dementia, family members, clinicians, researchers, care professionals and scientists – to share and learn from one another.

I was lucky enough to represent Alzheimer Scotland at the Alzheimer Disease International Conference in Kyoto, Japan in April, sharing our work in post diagnostic support. As I was going all that way for a conference I wanted to see the best of dementia care and support Japan has to offer so set up some visits to services that I’d heard were well respected. Here’s some of the headlines:

  1. Scotland is seen by the dementia community in Japan as world leading and way ahead of anywhere else. Our Human Rights approach; 5 and 8 Pillar models; our activism on dementia such as the Scottish Dementia Working Group. The few people from Scotland who were at the conference felt like minor celebrities-it was very humbling.
  2. In Japan dementia care is funded through a long term care state run insurance that everyone over 40 pays for. It has created a mixed market so, whilst the quality is mixed, there is a wide range of support available and lots of innovation is evident.
  3. Group homes of up to 9 people are a popular option for people with dementia who can no longer live at home. Daily life centres around an open plan kitchen and living space and people with dementia are supported to maintain their skills and abilities, including shopping for food and contributing to cooking meals, from chopping vegetables to stirring pots or laying out the chopsticks.
  4. Cognercise, used in some primary schools here, is growing as a therapeutic intervention in Japan. At a day centre in Tokyo, I joined in the body & brain exercise that energised everyone mid-afternoon.
  5. Dementia care, like everything, sits in a cultural context. Dementia care in Japan is thoughtful, kind, intricate and considered, with Hokkoi, roughly translated as a deep sense of wellbeing and contentment, the ultimate goal of dementia care.

Kyoto preparing lunch

Making a friend in the park

Room sign, Katerei no ie

On Reflection

How much do cultural values and norms influence our dementia care in Scotland? And how aware are we of this?

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