Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Tweeters rally to help find missing dementia woman

Diane from south Belfast who went missing yesterday

As part of the desperate search for her missing mum, Joanne Mehaffy was determined to exhaust every avenue.

So she turned to Northern Ireland social networking community for help in tracking down sightings of her 68-year-old mother, an Alzheimer's sufferer who had gone missing while out walking.

Joanne told the Belfast Telegraph when her mother Diane – who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease just three weeks ago – went missing on Wednesday she feared the worst.

Diane had taken her two dogs – Honey and Diesel – for a walk at 9.15am, but when she didn't return to her south Belfast home within half-an-hour, her husband became concerned.

"Dad thought it was strange, so drove through the streets and couldn't find her," Joanne said.

"He saw a PSNI Land Rover and spoke to them, and by 11am the police had called to get a statement and photos, and search and rescue was informed."

Joanne sprung into action, created the poster of her mum and posted it along with the following message on Twitter.

"Pls share.This is my mum & she's gone #missing. Help try & bring her home safe #missing #belfast #plsRT #alzheimers"

Joanne is a big Twitter fan and knew it was a great way to get her message out to a large audience.

In a sign of the power of social media, hundreds of people on Twitter and Facebook shared the image and by 6.30pm Diane had been found.

Christina McStravick responded after she had noticed a woman, looking cold and confused, pass by the front of her home in Lisburn.

Christina went out to immediately find Diane.

"Christina is my hero," Joanne said. "I am so thankful to her and everyone who shared the poster and sent such lovely messages."

Factfile

Alzheimer's disease, first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, is a physical disease affecting the brain. It is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around 496,000 people in the UK. The term dementia describes a set of symptoms which can include loss of memory, mood changes, and problems with communication and reasoning.

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