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Dementia Casts Its Shadow Over China

Alzheimer’s patients overwhelm a system ill-prepared to treat them
Dementia Casts Its Shadow Over China
Photograph by Q. Sakamaki/Redux

When 71-year-old Shi Anquan chops firewood or visits the market in his village in northern China, his wife, Yuhua, also 71, plods quietly behind. Shi has given up tilling the land to devote himself full-time to the care of his wife, reminding her to bathe and change her socks. The village’s single nursing home won’t take patients with mental diseases. The nearest hospital doesn’t have dementia specialists. Shi must travel with his wife to visit her doctor in Beijing, a three-hour trip each way with two bus changes.

“If someone is going to have Alzheimer’s, China is a rough place to have it,” says Benjamin Shobert, managing director of Rubicon Strategy Group, which advises companies on the senior-care market. “Aging will be the biggest crisis of the century for China, and Alzheimer’s is at the crux of the problem.”