Alzheimer’s Patient Last Seen at LACMA, Still Missing
When Nancy Paulikas first went missing, it seemed like she’d turn up within a day or two.
Now, the 56-year-old Alzheimer’s patient has been missing for one year and her loved ones are no closer to knowing her whereabouts than the day she disappeared.
It’s a baffling case: how could a woman walk away from a crowded Los Angeles museum never to be seen again?
Paulikas left the women’s restroom at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) October 15, 2016—an otherwise ordinary Saturday afternoon.
Her husband, Kirk Moody, had been in the men’s restroom and was surprised when he emerged she was nowhere to be found.
LACMA officials helped search for Paulikas, but did not find her. Later, security footage would reveal she had left the museum, walked west on Wilshire Boulevard and then turned south on McCarthy Vista. That brief segment of footage, logged at about 3:15 p.m., is the last confirmed sighting of Paulikas.
Paulikas earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Science at UCLA and worked as a software developer for TRW/Northrup Grumman—where she met Moody—and later at financial services company ITW, where she became the head of software development.
After several years of dating, Moody and Paulikas married in 2001.
According to Paulikas’s best friend, Nancy Ward, Paulikas, before the onset of her Alzheimer’s, was “a bright, sparking kind of person” known for her intelligence.
Ward said everyone in their social circle coveted an invite to Moody and Paulikas’s home.
“They were both wonderful entertainers. You just knew that when you went to their house, the conversation was going to be fascinating and thought-provoking,” Ward said.
That changed, however, when Paulikas was diagnosed in 2015 with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Ward said the results were “heartbreaking.”
At the time of her disappearance, Paulikas had lost her sense of time and direction, according to those that know her.
She also suffered from aphasia, meaning she had difficulty both understanding and communicating with others.
Though the Alzheimer’s Association states that 60% of patients will wander, Paulikas had never done so before, as she disliked being separated from Moody.
“She was lost right away,” Moody said. “She wasn’t familiar with the area and she certainly didn’t know where she was. It’s my belief that she went looking for me. How long she could keep that thought in her head, I don’t know. That’s anybody’s guess.”
Moody has been dedicated and organized in his search, drawing in hundreds of volunteers and allies.
Yet now, he said, the search is dying down, if only because he’s running out of places to look.
According to Moody, he’s run through all the scenarios numerous times and even though she might have not initially appeared out of place, “all roads lead to sooner or later, she’s going to end up in a hospital,” he said.
“Although she was physically in good shape, her decline was on a pretty steep slope when she went missing, so she probably required medical attention,” he said.
Moody’s hypothesis checks out.
If Paulikas had died on the streets, the coroner’s office would have received her body and identified her, as her DNA and photo are both on file in the National Missing Person’s Database. A Good Samaritan would have contacted the authorities or taken her to a hospital, as Paulikas required constant care. If she had entered the homeless community, she likely would have encountered police.
Police in Manhattan Beach, where Paulikas and Moody live, are officially assigned to the case. However, Los Angeles Police Dept. Sgt. Mike Goldberg has been volunteering his time to help find Paulikas after seeing a missing persons flyer posted in Los Angeles.
According to Goldberg, he fears that Paulikas may have been taken to a less reputable hospital that may have been reluctant to pay for her long-term care.
In that case, he said, she may have been transferred to residential facility for those that require long-term care without being properly booked into the system. Such a facility would typically house one to six patients at a time, for which they would receive federal funds. Some facilities may provide a very low level of care to turn a profit.
“They’re warehousing people and they need bodies to make this work because they’ve got to get paid and the margins are thin,” Goldberg said.
It isn’t the worst possible outcome, as Paulikas would at least receive basic care for the duration of her life. However, there would be no solace for her husband, friends and those who have spent the last year searching for her.
Moody and his team have sent out mailers to some 9,000 residential care facilities in Southern California, while volunteers have personally visited several hundred, he said.
Additionally, Moody has offered a $30,000 reward for anyone who provides information that leads him to his wife.
For Moody, the search has been a diversion from the weight of the situation. Yet as he runs out of places to look, emotions loom overhead.
Recently, he has been contacting hospitals and requesting they conduct an “advanced database search,” that might turn up any Jane Doe matching Paulikas’s description.
Moody said he remains encouraged by those who have stepped forward to help him, and hopes anyone who may want to pitch in will share his story on social media.
“Sooner or later, somebody who has interacted with her or sees her wherever she happens to be is going to see one of these posts on social media and put it together,” Moody said.