The nursing care insurance system started up in Japan ten years ago. Since
then nursing care has expanded to include all kinds of services. On the
other hand, many people feel that the existing system is difficult to use,
while others cannot take advantage of it. This documentary film portrays
the work of young people who have started small nursing care centers to
care for elderly people who do not fit into the existing public nursing
Four different centers make their appearance in the film. One is "Ishii's
Home," a day service center located in Chiba City. Its representative,
Ishii Hidetoshi, while employed at a nursing care institution together
with his wife, opened the Home at the age of 30, about four years ago.
The staff consists of 21 persons and there are 26 people using its facilities.
In addition to Mr. Ishii and his wife, their parents and children and other
relatives work at the center as volunteers. Recently, Mr. Ishii started
accepting young people with early dementia disease. He aims at establishing
a place where elderly persons, disabled people, and children can live together.
Another day service center, called "Wellside Wellness (Idobata Genki),"
was opened eight years ago in the city of Kisarazu (Chiba Prefecture) by
Ito Hideki at the age of 30 years. A staff of 14 people takes care of 25
persons. Additionally, Mr. Ito began a day-service center and some accommodation
facilities for disabled people. He himself experienced "hikikomori"
(a fear of getting out into society) and job-hopping (with various part-time
jobs) and, as a result, is able to employ all kinds of young people and
carry on nursing-care activities without becoming a slave to conventional
The "Genki-na Kame-San" located in Sakato City (Saitama Prefecture)
is the oldest among the centers appearing in the film. Mr. Takimoto Shinkichi
started it in 1986 at the age of 36. The staff consists of 18 persons taking
care of 21 elderly people, 20 of whom live at the center. Eight disabled
persons as well as two children receive day-care services. Mr. Takimoto
points out the contradictions in the present nursing care system. "Rather
than adjust to the public system, we decided to run the institution without
public approval so as to be able to provide the services needed by the
elderly and the disabled."
The newest center introduced in the film is "Yuto," opened in
April 2009 in Joyo City (Kyoto Prefecture) by 28 year-old Mr. Okawa Takuya
together with his wife. They provide day care and short-term stay, take
care of disabled children and accompany people to hospitals or for shopping.
They wanted to be able to provide care for people whom the nursing care
insurance cannot cover because they fall outside its time frame or have
special needs, so they decided not to apply for public approval. Through
trial and error they are responding to the real needs of people who fall
through the cracks in the public system.
Without any doubt, the staff personnel of the centers appearing in the
film are wonderful people and their work is quite impressive. Nevertheless,
the disabled and elderly receiving care there are much more attractive.
There is the 79-year-old former school principal who takes it out on the
staff whenever he dislikes something but always has a charming smile for
the children. There is an 80-year-old man that sometimes does not recognize
his own wife in her wheelchair and wants to leave every morning for work
as a carpenter. A 62-year-old lady with mental deficiency that had been
refused entrance to various institutions because of her tendency to walk
out and get lost was accepted into "Genki-na Kame-San," where
she receives the solicitous care of the staff and can even help take care
of other residents.
Patients as well as staff are always smiling despite their various hardships.
Mr. Ito affirms, "There is no need to force oneself to be kind to
those who are hard to please. Rather we give devoted attention to the elderly
who are receptive. In this way the staff constantly acquires renewed motivation."
Viewers can see very human encounters here that go beyond the directions
any instruction manual can give.
A man with severe brain damage incurred from a myocardial infarction during
a marathon race entered the "Genki na Kame-San" center for day-service
care after having been shifted around to various hospitals and care facilities.
Then one day when his wife was driving him home, he suddenly said, "Let's
go back!" On returning to "Genki-na Kame-San," he said "I'm
back (Tadaima)!" as he entered. His wife said that when she heard
this she got goose bumps. This incident indicates clearly what "Genki-na
Kame-San" meant to that man.
[Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo]