Parkinson’s disease is quite a common NCD in Japan with over 150,000 people who suffer from the disease in Japan. But what exactly is it?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder is caused by the loss of dopamine production in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra- part of the midbrain.
Parkinson’s disease is not a life shortening disease alone but many sufferes also develop dementia separately which can be life-shortening.
Parkinson’s is comprised of 5 stages and early symptoms of the disease include:
- A tremor in a hand, leg, finger
- stooped posture
- difficulty walking
- small handwriting
- Bradykinesia: sudden stiffness with often a ‘mask-like’ expression
- Loss of balance
- sleep problems
- problem with swallowing
- memory issues including dementia
Basic treatments for Parkinson include medications which when taken convert to dopamine and help the body cope with loss of production, a healthy and balanced diet. However, as the disease progresses, patients will often decline physically.
Loss of independence
Late stage Parkinson’s patients will likely require around the clock care as they become unable to complete simple household tasks such as cooking, cleaning or washing.
About 40% of stage 5 patents will have a form of dementia as well as more common symptoms such as loss of bladder control, frequent mood changes, respiratory problems, less responsiveness to dopaminergic medications (dopamine replacement medications), dysphasia (inability to understand language), dysarthria (the inability to speak) etc.
Some late stage patients have described it as being a “drooling vegetable” but each person with the disease is different- and each treatment plan is different.
Many universities in Japan are studying Parkinson’s disease and are running clinical trials including Kyoto University (who have transplanted iPS cells [induced Pluripotent Stem aka non-specific stem cells] to supplement dopamine-emitting neurons), and Tokyo Metropolitan University of medical science (looking at the effects of adiponectin [a protein produced by fat cells with many effects] on neurodegeneration).
The costs of PD in Japan is high. Curative care (treatment which looks towards a cure- even if not possible) is around 500 USD a month. Palliative PD care or PD care requiring a care home is significantly higher and estimates are hard to find in Japan.
With a monthly cost of around 500 USD and an annual cost of around 6000 USD, it is estimated that 90% of this cost is from PD medication- but this is mainly for earlier stages. For patients in later stages and for patients who have had PD for more than 10 years, the costs are between 550 and 600 USD a month. Costs do change with symptoms. If a patient requires pain medication, the costs are higher; if the medication is “wearing off”, the costs are higher.
One problem with PD costs in Japan is that there is very little research. One article I used (see further links page) doesn’t consider long term care home costs. But the costs are comparable to the cost of PD in the US, UK, or Germany.
Basic care home costs in Japan are around 40,000 JPY a month for basic care needs which is 446,000 JPY a year. This would be in addition to direct PD care costs. Please note, the care home cost is for a basic level of care only- PD would require a lot more care and thus expense.
In order to combat this costs, it is estimated but the JT that around 470,000 people left their jobs between 2007 and 2012 to help care for elderly relatives which does reduce costs but by how much is yet to be determined.
Thank you for reading and happy exploring.