Gov’t takes a third crack at dealing with dementia

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Gov’t takes a third crack at dealing with dementia

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced a comprehensive plan to deal with dementia Thursday, saying it will earmark 480.7 billion won ($407 million) over the next five years for welfare programs for dementia patients and their families.

The third such initiative, set to run from 2016 to 2020, will include broader financial support for checkups to detect the development of the illness, and offer advanced patients 24-hour home-visit care services for up to six days per year.

The budget will be financed through the central and regional governments.

Im In-taek, an official from the ministry’s senior policy bureau, said during a press briefing at the Seoul Government Complex that “softer” support measures aimed at patients and their families will be introduced nationwide.

“[The government] has so far focused on establishing the main infrastructure [to detect and tackle dementia],” said Im.

“Through the help of local communities, we’re now set to adopt a softer [approach] that will mitigate the pressure dementia patients and their families have to cope with.”

One chief revision will be to cover around 80 percent of checkup costs through health insurance, which currently cost from 70,000 won to 400,000 won and are not covered by national health insurance.

Some 38,000 severe dementia patients around the country will be eligible for the 24-hour professional care services for six days per year.

Regional governments that run specialized education programs for police officers, bankers and medical care providers - people who have the most physical contact with dementia patients - will be designated “dementia-friendly villages” and receive incentives that weren’t specified.

Families of dementia patients, which often struggle looking after their relatives, will be offered a travel voucher worth some 150,000 won per person to take a break from their care duties. While that person is away, a professional caregiver will be dispatched to the patient’s house to take care of him or her.

Counseling services for family members, offered through the official dementia call center (1899-9988) will be reinforced around the clock. Health care services for people who were diagnosed to be highly likely to develop dementia will also be revamped.

BY JEONG JONG-HUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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