An Okanagan seniors’ care network has created a new online alert system to find elderly people with dementia who go missing from their home.
Home Instead has launched a new tool for Kelowna and Penticton residents called the Missing Senior Network.
It is a website platform, MissingSeniorNetwork.ca, that enables family caregivers to alert a network of friends, family and businesses to be on the lookout for a missing senior suffering from a dementia ailment.
“As a business, we deal with seniors so we wanted to be proactive on this. It’s a fantastic tool because when seniors with dementia get lost wandering away from their home, the immediate challenge becomes how to find them and who or where to call,” said Don Henke, who operates the Home Instead care franchise centres in Kelowna and Penticton.
According to a recent survey conducted by Home Instead Inc., nearly 50 per cent of family members have experienced a wandering loved one who at least temporarily went missing.
Of those, one in five called police for assistance.
To register a family member on the website, basic contact information for friends and family, neighbours and other relevant personal information is posted. If that person goes missing, the contact list people are notified via text or email.
Families can also choose to post an alert to the Home Instead Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook page, connected to 270,000 followers.
The company’s efforts are part of its Prevent Wandering program (PreventWanderingt.ca) which includes resources such as insight into what may trigger wandering events, steps families can take to help keep their loved ones safe and tips on what to do if a wandering event occurs.
“Seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia often wander with a purpose, whether it is to return to a former job workplace or even visit family or friends,” noted Dr. Paulina Gasiorowska, an emergency room physician.
“Wandering can put seniors at risk for injury so it’s important for family members to be aware of these risks in order to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their loved ones.”
Delusions or hallucinations
Common signs for the risk of wandering for those living with a dementia disease:
1) The disease itself. Anyone with dementia is at risk of wandering as long as that person is mobile.
2) Trouble navigating familiar places. A desire to go in search of where an individual may feel they need or want to be.
3) Talk about fulfilling nonexistent obligations, such as a mom talking about a need to take her baby, who is now a grown adult, to the doctor.
4) Agitation during the late afternoon or early evening, sometimes referred to as “sundowning,” which can lead to anxious pacing around even as fatigue begins to set in.
5) Wanting to go home when they’re already there.
6) Unmet needs, where a person wants to go to a specific room in their home, such as a bathroom, but can’t find where it is.