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Winnipeg senior's disappearance deemed critical incident by WRHA

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The city’s regional health authority is investigating the disappearance of a senior living with dementia as a critical incident.

Earl Moberg, 81, was last seen in the River East area on Dec. 12, 2023. The Winnipeg Police Service issued a silver alert – used when a vulnerable adult is reported missing – as a result, and asked residents in the area to check their property for Moberg.

Despite numerous searches throughout northwest Winnipeg over the past six months, Moberg has not been found, and according to his daughter Britt, he is presumed dead.

On Monday evening, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) confirmed it is conducting a critical incident review into the matter.

“We can confirm the initial review into Mr. Moberg’s case has been completed,” a WRHA spokesperson told CTV News. “We will review it as a critical incident review to better understand if there is anything that the system could do differently, and what, if any improvements can be made to the way health-care providers work.”

In Manitoba, critical incident reports are triggered after patients experience serious and unintended harm while accessing health-care services.

In late April, Moberg’s family penned a letter to the WRHA outlining why they believed his case fit the criteria for a critical incident review.

“Had he been able to access the appropriate and timely resources, this could have been preventable,” Britt said.

Moberg was diagnosed with dementia in 2019, and his condition had progressed into advanced dementia by the time he disappeared. According to Britt, the family was waitlisted several times trying to access resources and long-term care services.

“I think having an occupational therapist and having a home safety assessment would have been very important,” Britt said.

She explained that could have helped the family develop a safety plan to prevent Moberg from wandering. Britt said her family also requested respite care to help alleviate her mother’s ‘caretaker burnout’ among other things.

“Ultimately, he only received four hours of home care [respite] ever – which was the day that he went missing.”

And, in what Britt describes as ‘bitter irony,’ the WRHA contacted the family the following day, on Dec. 13, 2023, to say Moberg could finally be panelled for long-term care.

Britt said she hopes the critical incident review will lead to some change and outcomes in the health-care system to meet the needs of people living with dementia.

The WRHA spokesperson said the Moberg family will be invited to participate in the review process and any recommendations will be shared with them once the review is complete.

“Hopefully, someone else’s life could be saved,” Britt said. “See what they can learn from this, and how they can prevent this from happening again.”

Erin Crawford, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba, said she isn’t surprised the Moberg family is looking for answers into the circumstances that led to his disappearance.

“We hear from families a lot at the Alzheimer’s Society about challenges that go along with a dementia diagnosis and trying to support somebody who has dementia to live their best life at home,” Crawford told CTV News. “It’s really difficult. It can become a 24-hour-a-day role and it can be exhausting for many families. There’s a real need for supports.”

Crawford said there are about 20,000 Manitobans living with dementia right now, and she anticipates that number will double by 2050.

“So we’re going to see more and more situations where families are trying to grapple with a lack of adequate resources while supporting a loved one who has dementia,” Crawford said. “If we’re not able to meet that need now, how are we going to be able to meet that need in 20 years? None of us want to have an outcome like we’re seeing with Mr. Moberg.”

Britt Moberg is also advocating to change how silver alerts are issued in Manitoba. She wants them sent to mobile devices and to target specific geographic areas where vulnerable adults go missing.

Moberg is described as being five-foot-seven with a medium build, short white hair and a white beard. He was wearing a dark blue or green parka when he went missing. Wednesday will mark six months since he went missing.

“It’s very difficult, and you know, I miss my dad,” Britt said. “We hope that if people are aware he's out there, that while they're out in the public, that they will just be mindful of that, and so if they see something unusual, that they'll be aware of that. And we just pray that every day that hopefully will get a call that he's been found.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Winnipeg police.

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