Living with Alzheimer’s: China’s health time bomb


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When Chen Shaohua first went missing and was arrested by police, a 68-year-old family confused it.

When he disappeared for the second time, they noticed that he was terribly ill — but it was already too late.

Daughter Chen Yuanyuan explained, “I missed the early signs,” “for several years the mother complained that he was lying … but we lived together for years. I couldn’t judge because it wasn’t. “

Doctors have diagnosed Chen as Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. With Alzheimer’s disease, people suffer from cognitive dysfunction, such as memory loss, and ultimately require full-time care.

About 10 million people in China have been diagnosed with degenerative and incurable brain damage, accounting for about a quarter of the world’s cases.

According to a study by the London School of Economics and Tropical Medicine, the country’s population is aging rapidly, and this number is expected to surge to 40 million by 2050.

The report warned that the surge would cost the economy $ 1 trillion annually. Medical bills Productivity is lost as caregivers drop out of the workforce.

According to the World Health Organization, dementia is not a “necessary result of biological aging,” but age is the strongest risk factor for developing dementia.

And while this is a growing problem globally, experts say China is not well prepared for this challenge.

There are 6.2 million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, and the specialized treatment center has 73,000 beds, which is twice as many in China, but less than 200 beds.

Wei Shouchao, a neurologist at Guangdong Medical University, said:

“It is the fastest growing major disease on the mainland and we are not at all ready to deal with it.”

“We never doubted”

When Chen began to misplace his keys and wallet, his family thought it was just a forgotten.

When he first went missing, it took 40 hours to find him. Police picked him up after someone reported an attempted intrusion.

“(It) looked like the place we once lived in. Dad was confused. He forgot that we were in Beijing now … fortunately no one attacked him. “His daughter told AFP.

Not knowing what to do next, I bought a watch that the app could track, but when they went missing again after taking it off, they realized he needed it. Medical assistance..

“We never suspected Alzheimer’s disease. Family history And he is very young, “said Chen Yuanyuan.

As millions of people migrate to cities, older parents in rural China “become left behind and vulnerable,” said He Yao of the National Center for Geriatrics and Medicine.

He said the lack of family awareness meant that patients could not receive adequate medical care for years.

“This missed an opportunity because early intervention can slow the progression of the disease,” he said.

Last year, Beijing launched the Healthy China 2030 Action Plan with the aim of developing a community-level screening program for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and raising public awareness of the disease.

However, critics say the proposal does not include details about training doctors, building dedicated care facilities, or improving the ability of public hospitals to treat people with dementia.

“Local doctors are not trained in early diagnosis,” Wei said.

“Even in Beijing, there is only one care home with staff trained to handle patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Missing parents

Chen is a former Army musician playing several classic Chinese instruments, including the bamboo flute.

He is physically healthy and has a clear memory of what happened decades ago. On the surface, the only indicator that something is wrong is when you talk about past events as if they were happening now.

“Mao Zedong attended one of our performances,” he told AFP, referring to a concert in the central city of Wuhan in the 1960s.

Patients with dementia often require 24-hour care, and the physical and psychological sacrifice of the caregiver can be significant, especially with little professional help.

Chen’s son, Chen Yun-Pen, has a busy job at a logistics company, but because he doesn’t have a community facility, he has to take his father to a warehouse instead and do his full-time work while keeping him safe. ..

And when he disappeared, the family had to resort to a volunteer group to help find the elderly who were reported missing.

More than 12 people, including retired civil servants, teachers and housewives, rushed to where Chen was last seen, police examined CCTV footage from public cameras for hours, and where he went. Helped me find clues about.

The team says it has helped find about 300 missing Alzheimer’s patients since 2016.

“We receive calls from families across the country almost every day about their missing parents,” said Su Xiao, head of the Beijing Shiyuan Emergency Rescue Service Center.

“The real danger is that older people are trapped in abandoned construction sites, fall into open pit mines, or go out in bad weather.”

1 in 20 cases of dementia occurs in people under the age of 65

© 2021 AFP

Quote: Life with Alzheimer’s disease: China’s health time bomb (September 19, 2021) from https: // September 19, 2021 Got

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