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Japanese filmmaker puts dementia care in Norfolk in the spotlight

A renowned Japanese filmmaker has returned to Norwich to make her latest in a series of documentaries about dementia care with the help of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). 

Yuka Sekiguchi used her visit to produce her latest film in the series which began with the acclaimed ‘Every Day is Alzheimer’s’, which features her mother and was endorsed by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. 

During her latest visit, Ms Sekiguchi observed and filmed the person-centred care that staff provide at Hammerton Court at the Julian Hospital, interviewed a service user and their family, and spoke to the Trust’s Dr Hugo de Waal, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist. 

Dr de Waal, who has worked for NSFT for more than 20 years, is the responsible consultant for the unit, which has just under 40 beds for people with advanced dementia.

He said: “People in Japan hold that the UK is at the forefront of dementia care worldwide. Yuka’s visits have provided excellent opportunities to reinforce international links between those involved in providing and improving dementia care in Japan and the UK, as well as enabling exchange of insights and fostering mutual learning.

“Japan is similar to the UK in that it is an ageing society and they are particularly interested in the concept of person-centred care in dementia, which was pioneered in this country.

“It’s an approach where our starting-point is to regard each person with a diagnosis of dementia as an individual and therefore to tailor the care and treatment we provide in a way that meets their individual needs most effectively and takes fully into account their personhood, rather than to treat them all the same.”

Dr de Waal first met Ms Sekiguchi in 2013 when she travelled to the UK to film different models of dementia care for her documentary, ‘Every Day is Alzheimer’s 2 – The Filmmaker Goes to Britain’. In the film, she charts how her mother and her family live with Alzheimer’s at home. He was interviewed again in 2017 when Ms Sekiguchi returned to Norwich to film ‘Every Day is Alzheimer’s - The Final: Death Becomes Us’, which was released in Japanese cinemas last summer. In July 2018, Dr de Waal was invited to Japan to deliver a series of lectures and interviews with the media, marking the release of Ms Sekiguchi’s latest instalment.

Ms Sekiguchi said: “In the years I cared for my mum, I learned that her mental and psychological stability was crucial. During the early stage of her dementia, she was often depressed and confused but we managed to get through this tough period with a sense of humour, which I documented in 'Every Day is Alzheimer’s'. 

“After my mum advanced towards the second stage, I focused my next film on psychological, philosophical and person-centred approaches to dementia care. Having heard good reports about the care that the facilities and staff at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust provide, I was delighted to film Hammerton Court and its staff for the second movie and again for the last movie, which – apart from charting how my mother now lives with more advanced dementia and how we care for her – has more of a focus on end-of-life care.

“The latest film footage and interviews, again featuring Hammerton Court, its staff and Dr de Waal, will be incorporated into a business case, prepared by Dr de Waal and outlining the need for a Dementia Care Academy Japan, that we hope to present to the Japanese Government later in the year.”

Filming began at Hammerton Court on Thursday (27 March) and concluded over the weekend.

Caption: Cameraman Hiroshi Moria with filmmaker Yuka Sekiguchi​.

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