Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Program helps protect
Alzheimer’s wanderers

The issue: The disappearance of a
Honolulu man is a reminder of the
likelihood of people with Alzheimer's
disease to wander away.

MASAYUKI Kubo has been missing from his Honolulu condominium for more than two weeks, but his disappearance is not a mystery. Kubo, 80, is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, and he had wandered away two other times in the past couple months. His unknown whereabouts this time is a reminder of a service provided by the Alzheimer's Association, called Safe Return, that is under-utilized.

The cause of Alzheimer's disease still is not known precisely, but its effects on the brain have become understood much better in recent years. The prospects of developing treatment to slow the process of the disease are promising. While that research continues, relatives of Alzheimer's patients are urged to enroll them with Safe Return.

Those registered in the program are provided personalized bracelets, wallet cards, clothing labels and other forms of identification, along with a nationwide 24-hour crisis phone line. Only 487 of the estimated 19,700 Hawaii residents with Alzheimer's disease are enrolled in Safe Return.

Many of the families may not be aware of the program, Martha Directo, a social worker for the Alzheimer's Association's Hawaii chapter, told the Star-Bulletin's Helen Altonn. "Or," she added, "they think, 'My mom or dad is not at that point yet, they never leave the house,' so they don't see the need for it."

However, up to 70 percent of the nation's 4 million people with Alzheimer's wander off at some point because of medication side effects, stress, time-related confusion, restlessness, agitation, anxiety, inability to recognize familiar people or things or fear stemming from misinterpretation of sights and sounds, according to the association. Relatives are advised to encourage movement, exercise and involvement in productive activities such as folding laundry or preparing dinner, and to provide reassurance if the person feels lost, abandoned or disoriented.

The association will be conducting a registration drive July 28 at its Ward Warehouse office, at the Kaahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului, Maui, at the KTA Superstore in Hilo, and sites that are yet to be selected in Kona and on Kauai. Registration costs $40.

Kubo, who is not enrolled in the Safe Return program, told his wife on June 23 that he was going for a walk, and he has not returned to their Kapiolani Boulevard condominium. Anyone with information about Kubo is asked to call the police missing person's section at 529-3115 or 529-3395.

Japanese must be fair
to accused U.S. soldier

The issue: U.S. officials have turned over
to Japanese authorities an Air Force staff
sergeant accused of raping an Okinawan woman.

American military leaders on Okinawa have done the right thing in handing over Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland to the Japanese to be questioned and, most likely, to be tried for alleged rape. Woodland has contended that the woman consented to sexual relations with him.

For the last half-century, as U.S. military forces have been posted across the face of the Earth, they have been confronted with a conflict between the rights of American soldiers under the Constitution and the sovereignty of the nation in which they are stationed. On one hand, the young American man or woman who enlists in the armed forces and swears to defend the Constitution with his life, if necessary, has a right to expect that Constitution to follow him wherever he goes. Woodland, for instance, was ordered to Okinawa and is not there by choice as a tourist or business executive or foreign correspondent subject to Japanese law.

On the other hand, Japan and other nations with U.S. forces within their territory have a right to have their sovereignty respected and their laws and legal processes to obtain -- especially when the American serviceman may have visited violence on a citizen of the host nation.

Status of Forces Agreements, or SOFA, between the United States and the other nation seek a reasonable and balanced compromise between the conflicting rights. They set the conditions under which an American serviceman would be arrested, indicted, tried and imprisoned if convicted. It was under these agreements that Woodland was handed over to the Japanese after U.S. authorities had received Japanese assurances that he would be treated according to the SOFA.

The issue is complicated because Japanese and America law differ. In Japan, the defendant is considered neither innocent nor guilty, with the burden of proof resting equally on the prosecutor and the defense. In practice, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent, which is reflected in the 95 percent conviction rate. In the United States, of course, the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. Most U.S. criminal trials are held before a jury. In Japan, the judge reaches a verdict.

The judge in this case will be caught between a rock and a hard place. If he appears to favor the American defendant, that will trigger more anti-American sentiment. If he favors the prosecutor, he will draw American wrath, including that of Congress, and the Foreign Ministry charged with maintaining relations with the United States. The only way out, for all concerned, is for the Japanese police and court to be -- and to be seen as -- scrupulously fair.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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