A record number of Japanese people with dementia disappeared last year, with more than 12,000 reported missing, according to government figures.
The country’s national police agency (NPA) said 12,208 people with dementia were reported missing in 2015 – an increase of 1,452 (13 per cent) from the previous year.
Almost all of those missing wandered off and were found within less than a week, but 479 were found dead and 150 have yet to be located, according to the NAP.
The Japanese government started collating data on missing dementia sufferers in 2012, with an estimated 4.62 million. Those figures expected to rise to seven million – one in five people over the age of 65 – by 2025, according to the Health, Labour and Welfare ministry.
Over-64s make up over a quarter of its 128 million-strong population, which is continuing to age.
Around 800 out of 1,741 municipalities in Japan have signed agreements to surve people with dementia and respond in times of emergency, according to the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union.
In a recent survey, 40 per cent of families looking after relatives said they were unable to care at home, and 70 per cent said their caring responsibilities had become a burden.
The government is to spend 22.5bn yen (£152.3m) this year to train specialists, improve structures for early diagnosis and expand community-based care to relieve the pressure on family members who have to give up work to become carers.
The city of Kushiro in Hokkaido has set up a system with police, taxi companies and other businesses to help track down dementia sufferers who have gone missing.
Other initiatives include a GPS service in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, which allows police to track down dementia parents if they are reported missing.
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