A Nunavut elder who was missing for years and believed by his family to be dead has been found in an Ottawa seniors' residence, thousands of kilometres from his home.

Tommy Partridge, who lived in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut had been out of touch with his family since 2008, but news that he was "slowly falling into Alzheimer's" trickled back to his family members in Kuujjuaq, Que., about five years ago, his relative Patricia York told CBC News.

'Nobody was able to tell us how he was doing or if he was alive.' - Patricia York

After Partridge's wife died two years ago, updates on his condition dried up.

"He had a hard time dealing with grieving from his wife's death," she said. "Nobody was able to tell us how he was doing or if he was alive."

Last weekend, Partridge's photo popped up on her Facebook feed along with information that he was living at Embassy West Senior Living on Carling Avenue in Ottawa. She sent the photo to Partridge's 76-year-old brother.

"He was very touched," she said. "He was very surprised to see him alive." 

She added that the family doesn't know how Partridge ended up in Ottawa, but they are trying to figure out how to bring him home.

An employee at Embassy West Senior Living told CBC News to contact Partridge's case worker in Nunavut for an interview. The department in Nunavut was closed on Friday due to a blizzard.

'How can this happen?'

Manitok Thompson was visiting someone at Embassy West Senior Living last Sunday when she recognized her old friend from Rankin Inlet.

"What bothered me most was this seemed to be a very lonely man," she said. "I thought, 'Why is this guy here?'"

'It really disturbed me'0:34

Thompson —  a volunteer pastor at Larga Baffin, an Ottawa residence for Inuit people receiving medical services — said people from Rankin Inlet usually seek medical treatment and other services that are not available in the north in Winnipeg — not Ottawa.

Thompson decided to take a picture of him and posted it on Facebook hoping it would reach his family members — and it did.

"At that time, I didn't know the family had lost contact with him," she said.

Less than a day later, Thompson found out Partridge's family hadn't heard from him in years and thought he was dead.

"I started crying, thinking, 'How can this happen?'" she said. "If I didn't come here, would he have died down here? It really disturbed me."