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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 11:48 GMT
Japan probes 'man kept in cage'
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Officials in Japan are investigating reports that elderly residents of a Tokyo nursing home have been restrained and, in one case, kept in a cage.

A former employee of the nursing home told a Japanese daily that residents were regularly tied or handcuffed to their beds.

A physically and mentally disabled man, he said, had been shut in a metal pet cage for at least three months.

Local officials said they were looking into the reports.

The ex-employee told Japan's Mainichi newspaper that elderly residents, some of whom suffered from dementia, were tied to their beds at night.

He said a disabled man in his 30s had been confined to a pet cage in November 2006 with a portable toilet and a mattress. The man was still living in the cage when the worker left his job in January.

A member of staff told Japan's Kyodo news agency that a cage had been used for one resident, but said it was "like a fence for toddlers" and the resident "entered it willingly".

Ageing society

The nursing home, in Urayasu in eastern Tokyo, houses 26 residents. The Mainichi said that it had not been registered with local authorities.

Kunihito Yoshida, a Chiba prefectural official, said that if the allegations were proved, the facility could be punished.

"Although we are halfway through the investigation, our staff member who went to the facility said it was better than what we had heard," he said. "Yet we spotted one person handcuffed."

Japan has a rapidly aging population, with a greater proportion of older people than anywhere else in the world.

This is putting pressure on care facilities for the elderly and has sparked concern over poor quality homes.

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