In a Land of the Aging, Children Counter Alzheimer’s

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We may sometimes forget that Alzheimer’s Disease is a worldwide disease as is the Baby Boomer generation.  Other countries have some wonderful ideas and ways of coping with the demands for care and the implications for their own society.  We are inhabitants of our global village and it is interesting to see what other countries are doing and how it compares with our approaches and priorities. You may find these articles useful and fascinating.

The Vanishing Mind

War on Dementia

Articles in this series are examining the worldwide struggle to find answers about Alzheimer’s disease.

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Dementia Epidemic

South Korea is at the forefront of a worldwide eruption of dementia, from about 30 million estimated cases now to an estimated 100 million in 2050. And while South Korea’s approach is unusually extensive, even in the United States, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act was introduced this year to establish a separate Alzheimer’s office to create “an integrated national plan to overcome Alzheimer’s.” Supporters of the bill, currently in committee, include Sandra Day O’Connor, whose late husband had Alzheimer’s.

South Korea also worries that dementia, previously stigmatized as “ghost-seeing” or “one’s second childhood” could “dilute respect for elders,” Mr. Kwak said. “There’s a saying that even the most filial son or daughter will not be filial if they look after a parent for more than three years.”

So the authorities promote the notion that filial piety implies doing everything possible for elders with dementia, a condition now called chimae (pronounced chee-may): disease of knowledge and the brain which makes adults become babies. But South Korea’s low birth rate will make family caregiving tougher.

“I feel as if a tsunami’s coming,” said Lee Sung-hee, the South Korean Alzheimer’s Association president, who trains nursing home staff members, but also thousands who regularly interact with the elderly: bus drivers, tellers, hairstylists, postal workers. “Sometimes I think I want to run away,” she said. “But even the highest mountain, just worrying does not move anything, but if you choose one area and move stone by stone, you pave a way to move the whole mountain.”

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