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Patients with Dementia needs to have a place to enjoy[Interview] Prof. Kim Woo-jung at psychiatry department of Myongji hospital (the chief at Kyunggi Metropolitan Center for Dementia)
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2016.12.19 09:15
  • Updated 2017.02.20 16:39
  • comments 0

Currently the number of domestic patients with dementia has come close to about 50 thousand and continued to grow. Therefore, the Korean government made a law to control the disease and medical organizations are leading to educate people about it. I interviewed Prof. Kim Woo-jung at psychiatry department of Myongji hospital (the chief at Kyunggi Metropolitan Center for Dementia)

The Myongji hospital had an event for patients with dementia with Kyunggi province. The hospital held the event titled ‘the 1st Myongji hospital festival to overcome dementia from 19th to 23rd last month to commemorate the World Alzheimer’s Day (Sep. 21st). It included various programs such as a healing concert, a cheer-up concert, the show of the dementia prevention robot, an academy to make people healthy until at the age of 100, and the display of art treatment works. The Korean actress as well as singer, Jung-hae Oh was the host and celebration performances including a famous singer, Sa-yeon No were held.

-‘A festival to overcome dementia’. I am wondering why you use the word of a festival.

Prof. Woo-jung Kim at psychiatry department of Myongji hospital

I intentionally used it. Myongji hospital has a strong willingness to be a leader regarding dementia. People such as executives and medical officials all have the same opinions. It has been operating various programs and the festival is a part of them. The name ‘festival’ is our intention to be closer to patients and to make them enjoy the event. The patients are passive in treatment, but they don’t necessary need to think dementia is a fear. That’s why we held a healing concert and prepared programs to encourage both patients and their families.

-Is there a special program to remember?

I like all programs because all staffs made efforts to prepare for it. But one of the programs I remember is the healing concert I mentioned above because patients participated in it. And it was impressive; officials from nursing homes and community centers were active to learn programs to cure patients with art.

-What are the characteristics in the treatment for patients?

I think a variety of treatment with no use of medicines is one of characteristics. We have provided our own programs such as music treatment at the art treatment center. The academy to make people healthy until at the age of 100 is the comprehensive service program and provides 16 free rehabilitation treatments such as cognitive rehabilitation treatment, movement treatment, and music treatment etc. twice a week for patients in early stage of dementia and with mild cognition impairment through dementia screening processes. We were awarded ‘2016 Asia hospital management grand prize-company’s social responsibility field’ this year. The hospital published a paper to prove music treatment is effective for patients with dementia and depression at the same time.

-Would you explain more about a program that patients participated in?

Patients who are discouraged and can’t enjoy normal lives are changed after taking part in the program and try to live enthusiastically. And their families share their difficulties. For example, patients sing a song together, rewrite the lyrics of ‘Arirang’, or clap together when they sing through the music treatment program. It may be simple, but they like it and actively take part in. And patients make songs by themselves in some programs.

The hospital held the event titled ‘the 1st Myongji hospital festival to overcome dementia from 19th to 23rd last month to commemorate the World Alzheimer’s Day (Sep. 21st).

-You are also the chief at Kyunggi Metropolitan Center for Dementia. I think you feel differently after participating in the program.

Because with the elderly population rising, the number of people with dementia is also growing, the Korean government pays much attention on this issue. I thought it would be O.K. to spread our know-how to deal with the patients, but I knew the Kyunggi Metropolitan Center for Dementia including the Central Dementia Center had already provided many programs.

-What kind of programs does Kyunggi Metropolitan Center for Dementia deal with?

People are highly satisfied with these programs that provide consultation services about depression for families of dementia patients and how to cope with patients who wander. But it’s regretful to say that they can take part in the program for only 3 months because of budget and the expansion of the target patients. The dementia policy conducted by the Korean government is to slow the development of dementia through early treatment based on an early screening test. Kyunggi province is conducting various programs to prevent and control dementia such as a program to handle patients with mild dementia etc. 8 cities such as Suwon, Yongin, etc. are conducting test operations in the center where patients with mild dementia are treated and 7 more cities will perform it next year.

-Was there frustrations?

The main purpose of the programs to deal with dementia at the provincial level is an early screening test and the treatment with no use of medicines. The government should provide aid for a cognitive rehabilitation program for patients and a psychological assistance program for families. Both the government and experts understand it, but it’s hard to practice in reality. Now, the average rate of the early screening test is only 4%.

-Does it mean the shortage of people who deal with it?

There are about 10 people in local centers for dementia in each city in Seoul to handle the dementia issue, but in Kyunggi, there are only about 10 people at Kyunggi Metropolitan Center for Dementia. The issue is handled in health centers, but there are only 2 or 3 people. They have trouble in dealing with instructions coming from the government.

-What is the most important fact for the patients?

According to a survey, the first disease the elderly over 60 don’t want to come up with is dementia and the second one is cancer. They just think dementia is a terrible disease and don’t know how to prevent or what kind of symptoms it has. They need to actively face it. And in Korea, aging and elderly poverty have been emerged as unprecedented social problems, which results from trouble for benchmarking. I think in a broad perspective, the Korean policy to cope with dementia is right, but a more favorable environment to perform programs for the patients is still needed in most areas except Seoul. The shortage of people and budget is the case in point. The government needs to prepare more.


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