Wed, Jun 08, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Doctor highlights dementia deaths

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The risk of death among elderly people with dementia who have gone missing for two to three days can be as high as 40 percent, a neurologist at National Taiwan University Hospital said yesterday, urging more awareness of such situations.

Not all scenarios of missing people have a fortunate conclusion like the seven-year-old Japanese boy, whose parents allegedly abandoned him in a forest and was missing for six days before being found safe, neurologist Chiu Ming-jang (邱銘章) said.

At a conference at the hospital about long-term care for elderly people, Chiu said that 6,000 to 7,000 people go missing every year in Taiwan.

“Some [of the missing elderly people] are given food and water or taken to the police by people they meet, with more than 90 percent of the people found, but some cases do not end so well,” Chiu said.

Studies show that the death rate among elderly people who go missing for two or three days can reach about 40 percent, usually because of dehydration.

Chiu said that a former patient of his — a man in his 70s with dementia and cardiovascular disease — went out on his own for more than 10 hours before he was found dead in a riverbed because of sunburn and dehydration.

According to government statistics, there are about 2.94 million elderly people — 65 or above — in Taiwan, accounting for 12.5 percent of the total population as of the end of last year. This figure is estimated to reach nearly 5 million, about 20 percent of the population, in 2025.

Chiu said that elderly people who participate in community activities, get regular exercise and receive cognitive stimulation are less likely to develop dementia.

Chiu said the Clinical Research Center for Dementia in South Korea in 2008 promoted the expansion of a screening program, which saw diagnosis rates for the condition rise from about 30 percent to 70 percent.

He said that the government should include dementia screening in health examinations and establish a reporting system to collect more information about dementia patients to help set policy.

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