The number of Japanese people with dementia reported missing hit yet another record high in 2016, figures released Thursday showed, indicating the issue of elderly care is becoming more complex due to Japan’s aging society.
The National Police Agency said 15,432 people with dementia or who are suspected to be suffering the condition were reported missing to police in 2016, up 26.4 percent from the previous year. The upward trend has been constant since the NPA started keeping annual statistics five years ago.
The agency’s data showed the number, which stood at 9,607 in 2012, surpassed 10,000 for a fourth consecutive year.
The whereabouts of 15,314 people were determined in 2016, including those reported missing in preceding years, but 191 have yet to be found. Of the people located, 15,069 were found within a week with 11,095 of those located within the first day, the agency said, adding that 471 were found dead while 44 were missing for more than two years.
The latest NPA report came as the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimated that the number of people with dementia would likely increase to about 7 million in 2025 — roughly a 1.5-fold rise from 2015.
In an effort to better respond to the situation, the NPA has compiled a database of missing dementia patients, including their DNA information, the missing people’s body shapes and the clothing they were wearing when they disappeared, information all provided by their families.
An increasing number of local governments and local police across the country have begun strengthening efforts to track down missing dementia patients.
In Takasaki, north of Tokyo, the city government started renting GPS devices free of charge to the families of elderly patients in October 2015 and has since had 141 cases where missing people were found. In one of the successful cases, a woman in her 80s who disappeared from a nursing facility in Gunma Prefecture was found in Tokyo.
In Nara Prefecture, western Japan, a missing man in his 60s was found and identified thanks to a sticker on his sandal, which had been provided by a local municipal government.
The police in neighboring Osaka Prefecture have stepped up their tie-ups with local authorities regarding exchanges of individuals’ information, including patients’ conditions, names and addresses.
Local police are also striving to improve their understanding of dementia through training courses being offered by the health ministry in order to ensure contact with patients in everyday life is trouble-free.