Dementia centers, which have been closed since a nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert began in May, might conditionally reopen soon, with specifics to be announced next week, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said yesterday.
While other care centers restarted operations last week, dementia centers were not included due to concern over their ability to adhere to pandemic guidelines, the ministry said.
More than 7,000 people with minor symptoms of dementia receive care at 508 public centers nationwide, which were established through the government’s Long-term Care Service Program 2.0.
The centers provide cognitive exercises, arrange group meals and help those they serve to participate in the community, among other services.
As they are in a variety of different facilities, such as medical institutions, community centers and churches, their sizes and contact with other groups varies widely, the ministry said.
This is different from other care centers, which are open on the condition that they serve a set number of people under strict conditions, such as having at least 6.6m2 of space per attendee, it said.
As people with dementia might be less able to follow COVID-19 protocols, dementia centers would only be reopened after carefully weighing the benefits against the risk of viral transmission, the ministry said.
Long-term Care Services Division Deputy Director Chou Tao-chun (周道君) told reporters that dementia centers must be evaluated separately from other types of care centers.
Dementia centers are often in shared spaces that are not big enough to maintain social distancing, Chou said, adding that this requires further discussion to determine intake eligibility, as the centers would not be able to serve as many people.
New operating guidelines for dementia centers are likely to be announced next week, after which they would be sent a checklist to evaluate standards such as vaccination coverage and available space, he said.
Local governments would be responsible for inspecting centers as they see fit, he said.
Asked whether the centers could meet standards of care set in the Long-Term Care Services Act (長期照顧服務法) given the restrictions, Chou said that local governments are encouraged to develop dementia centers into formal care centers, which could increase their capacity from 15 to 60 people per hour.
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