New Network Launches to Locate Wandering Seniors

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September 26th, 2016

The Missing Senior Network launched earlier this year, and offers families of Alzheimer's patients a way to help locate their loved one if they go missing. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

The Missing Senior Network launched earlier this year, and offers families of Alzheimer’s patients a way to help locate their loved one if they go missing. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia in adults. Around 33,000 Nebraskans have the disease, which often leaves the patient in a state of confusion and can sometimes cause them to wander off. But a new program is helping families find their loved ones faster, and bring them home safely.


1 in 9. That’s how many people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s. And with America’s aging baby-boomer population that number is expected to grow dramatically over the next few years.


Alzheimer’s disease is also the leading cause of dementia. Sometimes, a person suffering from dementia can wander off and find themselves in a state of panic and confusion.

Lea Kuper, R.N. said the Missing Senior Network can be beneficial in helping to locate a missing loved one because of its individualized concept. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Lea Kuper, R.N. said the Missing Senior Network can be beneficial in helping to locate a missing loved one because of its individualized concept. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Lea Kuper, a Geriatric Resource Nurse with the company Home Instead described what that situation might look like.

“The senior is in a panic,” Kuper said, “He doesn’t know or she doesn’t know where she’s at. She doesn’t know where to find her family. She doesn’t know how to get home, her phone number, her name even sometimes. So, it’s such an anxiety for the senior, and on the other side of it your loved one is missing. It’s the same as if a child went missing basically, because a child may not know how to get home either. I think it’s just a very scary situation on both accounts.”

Home Instead is an Omaha-based company specializing in helping elderly people stay in their home rather than go to a health care facility.

Mark Goetz is the Managing Director of the Omaha branch of Home Instead.

“What we’ve done is create a system called the Missing Senior Network to help families who have a loved one who could be in that position where they could wander,” Goetz said. “It’s a way for families to engage resources that are common to the senior so if they did go missing they could alert those places and connect with them quickly.”

The idea is pretty simple. If you have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you can create a profile on the Missing Senior Network website with your loved one’s picture and the family’s contact information. Then, you add the contact information of the people or places where that loved one might wander off to.

“There might be places where they are used to going that are in their long term memory,” Goetz said. “Maybe the place where they get their hair cut, the local grocery store, maybe even a local bar or local eatery.”

In the event your loved one wanders off, you can send an alert to everyone within the online network you’ve created. Those people or businesses would then be notified through a text or email to be on the lookout for your missing loved one. It’s based on the idea of amber alerts, just more localized.

“I think what’s so unique about this program is each family can make their own network,” Kuper said. “Short term memory is something of the past a lot of times with Alzheimer’s, but long term memory, that kicks in. So favorite places, favorite things to do.  These family member’s pictures can even be given to their network, which I think is just wonderful. It’s not a whole public, Omaha-wide or wherever network. It’s an individual network.”

You don’t have to be a Home Instead client to create a profile on the Missing Senior Network, and it’s free.

Goetz said the Missing Senior Network  can be a vital resource for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, and their loved ones.

Mark Goetz is the Managing Director of Home Instead's Omaha branch. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Mark Goetz is the Managing Director of Home Instead’s Omaha branch. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

“It’s a condition that as a nation, we’re probably the least prepared to tackle,” Goetz said. “It especially hits middle class families that are kind of in a donut-hole where maybe you don’t have the resources to support a 100 percent memory unit on a monthly basis. It’s middle income families that really struggle. Lower-income families may have access to resources, state run facilities. But it’s middle income families where we are really seeing the pinch on families that are trying to access resources that are primarily private pay and then fill in the gap with their own help as a family as well.”

The Missing Senior Network launched about two months ago, and anyone with internet access can use it. Around 1600 families have already created profiles and networks on the website, 10 of those families live in Nebraska. Thankfully, none of those families have had to issue an alert so far, but at least the resources will be in place when and if that need arises.

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