Missing Senior Network gives families peace of mind in dealing with dementia

Published on February 15, 2017

Heather Blouin pulls up the homepage of the Missing Senior Network on her laptop. The network allows families, friends and businesses to work together to find a missing person with dementia when they have wandered off.

©MILLICENT McKAY/TC MEDIA

Learning a loved one has gone missing is a family’s biggest fear, no matter the individual’s age.

But Heather Blouin wants people to know that when they are faced with uncertainty, they are not alone.

Blouin is the community services representative at the Slemon Park location of Home Instead Senior Care. Recently, Home Instead launched an online missing persons network called the Missing Senior Network.

“It’s a fairly new initiative to P.E.I. For me personally, the program is about offering as many tools as I can to families that need help when dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” said Blouin.

The name doesn’t exclude people of other ages from using the network as well, said Blouin.

We hope it will never come to the point where we need the service, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if we need it. It’s a… big relief. Susan

“When families come to us, they are trying to manage various levels of stress. They’re often managing two households they’re trying to understand diagnoses and there’s a lot of unknowns. It’s like creating a quilt or a blanket full of reassurances.”

Seniors can be a demographic that is overlooked, she added.

“This is one thing that can put families more at ease. When you think of the services that are out there when there is a missing child, there should also be one for those dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This is it.”

The free service is available online and on mobile devices allowing families to create networks of neighbours, friends and extended family members who would be involved in looking for the missing person, explained Blouin.

“You can go and register for the service, you don’t have to use it, but you can have it ready if something were to ever happen.”

That’s exactly what Susan, a 27-year-old Summerside resident did with her family when they noticed her grandmother showing signs of dementia.

“In our case we’ve been lucky not to need the service yet, but there is no way of knowing that we won’t. It’s a way to be pro-active,” she said.

“My grandmother is 91 and we’ve noticed the early signs like forgetfulness, agitation in the evenings and like she has a really strong sense of the past but not as strong a grasp on her short-term memory.

“We hope it will never come to the point where we need the service, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if we need it. It’s a… big relief.”

Registering with the network was also user friendly, said Susan.

“There are three steps you have to do. You can even include a photo of the person if you want, so people who are part of your network can have access to it as well as enter other information including places they may go if they end up wandering.

“If she were to go for a walk and we didn’t know where she ended up, we’d be able to send out an alert and ask others to reach out if they see her.”