New Network Launches to Locate Wandering Seniors
September 26th, 2016
Alzheimerâ€™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. Thatâ€™s how many people aged 65 and older have Alzheimerâ€™s. And with Americaâ€™s aging baby-boomer population that number is expected to grow dramatically over the next few years.
Alzheimerâ€™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, a Geriatric Resource Nurse with the company Home Instead described what that situation might look like.
â€œThe senior is in a panic,â€ Kuper said, â€œHe doesnâ€™t know or she doesnâ€™t know where sheâ€™s at. She doesnâ€™t know where to find her family. She doesnâ€™t know how to get home, her phone number, her name even sometimes. So, itâ€™s such an anxiety for the senior, and on the other side of it your loved one is missing. Itâ€™s the same as if a child went missing basically, because a child may not know how to get home either. I think itâ€™s just a very scary situation on both accounts.â€
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.
â€œWhat weâ€™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,â€ Goetz said. â€œItâ€™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.â€
The idea is pretty simple. If you have a family member suffering from Alzheimerâ€™s or dementia, you can create a profile on the Missing Senior Network website with your loved oneâ€™s picture and the familyâ€™s contact information. Then, you add the contact information of the people or places where that loved one might wander off to.
â€œThere might be places where they are used to going that are in their long term memory,â€ Goetz said. â€œMaybe the place where they get their hair cut, the local grocery store, maybe even a local bar or local eatery.â€
In the event your loved one wanders off, you can send an alert to everyone within the online network youâ€™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. Itâ€™s based on the idea of amber alerts, just more localized.
â€œI think whatâ€™s so unique about this program is each family can make their own network,â€ Kuper said. â€œShort term memory is something of the past a lot of times with Alzheimerâ€™s, but long term memory, that kicks in. So favorite places, favorite things to do.Â These family memberâ€™s pictures can even be given to their network, which I think is just wonderful. Itâ€™s not a whole public, Omaha-wide or wherever network. Itâ€™s an individual network.â€
You donâ€™t have to be a Home Instead client to create a profile on the Missing Senior Network, and itâ€™s free.
Goetz said the Missing Senior Network Â can be a vital resource for people suffering from Alzheimerâ€™s, and their loved ones.
â€œItâ€™s a condition that as a nation, weâ€™re probably the least prepared to tackle,â€ Goetz said. â€œIt especially hits middle class families that are kind of in a donut-hole where maybe you donâ€™t have the resources to support a 100 percent memory unit on a monthly basis. Itâ€™s middle income families that really struggle. Lower-income families may have access to resources, state run facilities. But itâ€™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.â€
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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