Difficulties Faced by Hard-to-reach Survivors in Fukushima Prefecture

AAR JAPAN has been engaged in aid and relief activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. On May 19th, we delivered electric cookers, electric kettles, garbage bags, towels, underwear, socks, and snacks to “Senior Garden”, a facility for the elderly in Fukushima City, and “Ekuseru”, a group home in Soma City, both in Fukushima Prefecture.

The Elderly with Dementia Relocate from One Shelter to Another.

Senior Garden” is a group home for the elderly with dementia, which had been run in Tomioka Town, Futaba County in Fukushima Prefecture. As the facility was located within 9km of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, on the evacuation order from the government, they had to evacuate to a room of a noodle restaurant in Kawauchi Village in the same county. In Kawauchi, however, the residents were also ordered to remain inside the houses, but it was difficult for the elderly with dementia to stay together in big evacuation centers. They had no place to go, but Fukushima Prefectural Group Home Council for Dementia introduced them to a facility in Fukushima City. From March 22nd, they have rented an apartment in Fukushima City to run a group home, providing service to 15 people at present.

For the elderly with dementia, even small environmental changes can cause great stress. A 70-year-old man, one of the users of Senior Garden, had a hemorrhage due to a stomach ulcer, vomited blood, and discharged blood due to the stress caused by the severe evacuation lifestyle. With his blood pressure falling to 70, he was transported to hospital immeditately, but it was not until he was given a screening test for exposure to radiation that he was finally accepted to emergency hospital.

Mr. Yasuhiro SUZUKI, Managing Director of Senior Garden, and his wife Yoko, Executive Director, have been making desperate effort to protect lives of users and staff at the facility. Ms. Yoko SUZUKI said, “This group home is a second family for us. We don’t know when we can go back to Tomioka Town, but we’ve been trying to keep our spirits up under the determination that we’ll be at their side when our users die.” However, living as evacuees has been undermining the health of many users (two of them are in hospital now), and sufficient support hasn’t reached the users. They requested long-term support of consumable goods and foods from us.

Every staff member at Senior Garden was providing great care with a warm smile for the users, and I realized that conversation and interchange with the staff is essential “medicine” for the health of users.

May 19th – Ms. Yoko SUZUKI (center), Executive Director of Senior Garden, is taking care of a user whose health has deteriorated due to living as an evacuee. On the right is Yasushi TANAKA, AAR JAPAN. (Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture)

In the Midst of Anxiety over the Situation at the Nuclear Power Plant and Lack of Supplies

Ekuseru is a group home for people with Dementia in Soma City. It is located 37km away from Fukuchima Dai-ichi power plant, and is now taking care of 9 elderly people including 3 who are bedridden.

Being affected by the situation at the nuclear power plant after the earthquake, they are still having difficulty receiving enough relief supplies. In summer the temperature will rise up to 33°Celcius, and they worry how to manage the heat as electricity shortages are expected. However, they can’t move to another place either, as environmental change can make people with dementia go into panic.

In the seacoast area in Fukushima Prefecture, where Ekuseru is situated, people have suffered from the unpredicted anxiety over the nuclear power plant, fear of radiation, evacuation orders, and insufficient supply distribution. Today’s visit made us realize that such anxiety especially bears on people at welfare facilities, for persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

AAR JAPAN will continue our aid activities for hard-to-reach people, like those at facilities for the elderly in Fukushima Prefecture.

May 19th – AAR JAPAN delivered supplies to people at Ekuseru. (The back row, the second from the left is Yasushi TANAKA, AAR JAPAN) (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

Yasushi TANAKA (Sendai office)
Being involved in aid activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake from April 2011
Worked in finance company for 14 years after graduating from university
After taking environmental studies at American university and working at Japanese company in Vietnam, joined AAR JAPAN
(Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture)