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Sunday, December 12, 2010

South Korea's "War on Dementia"

Dementia is memory loss and other interferences to the extent that daily functioning is difficult. It is caused by changes in the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia though there are several types. Dementia is a major concern in South Korea with it affecting the 65 and older population by 7 percent in 2000, to an estimated 14 percent in 2018, and 20 percent 2026.

However, South Korea's government is taking charge of dementia. Already they have created a long-term health insurance system and a dementia database. They developed the long-term insurance system by increasing the national insurance premium by 6.6 percent, to assist in the creation of centers and training to care for people with dementia. In 2009, about $1 billion government and public health insurance money was allocated toward dementia patients. While the dementia database enables relatives to register dementia patients and to receive iron on identification numbers.

The fight against dementia in South Korea extends beyond the government to the younger generations. Children are getting involved in the "war against dementia". These "dementia supporters" are learning the meaning of dementia, its symptoms, and how to care for someone with dementia.

"The 11- to 13-year-olds, for instance, were in the government’s “Aging-Friendly Comprehensive Experience Hall” outside Seoul. Besides the aging simulation exercise, they viewed a PowerPoint presentation defining dementia and were trained, in the hall’s Dementia Experience Center, to perform hand massage in nursing homes" (Pam Belluck, "Children Ease Alzheimer's in Land of Aging").

South Korea's demonstration should be mirrored for mental health concerns in the United States. More attention should be focused on mental health because it affects someone in our family and perhaps you like me. Wouldn't it be nice to have a program for youth to educate them about the basics of mental health? I believe like in many other demonstrations if we educate our youth we could not only fight stigma but help to overcome mental health.

To read the original article go to New York Times Health's Pam Belluck "Children Ease Alzheimer's in Land of Aging".

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

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