Student News

The Stories Behind the Disease: Spreading Awareness and Understanding for Alzheimer’s

Saadhya Bahudodda – July 25, 2018

“I loved sitting on the porch with my sister and making clothes for our paper dolls,” Linda* recalled with a soft smile on her face. Although she struggled to recall her siblings’ names and her hometown, the memory of playing with her sister was one that was clearly very special to her. In fact, she repeated this same thought many times throughout the course of our conversation.

Linda is one of the patients at local nursing home that I had the pleasure of talking to. She and the other patients I spoke to all have a form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to memory loss and the inability to carry out simple everyday tasks. More than 44 million people in the world are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, with over 5.5 million of these people living in the USA alone.

I, myself, have been affected by this disease as my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. Her diagnosis took a large toll my family. The woman who taught me the alphabet and cooked delicious homemade Indian meals for me slowly regressed until she could not remember my name or even how to brush her own teeth. As her grandchild, my biggest regret has been missing out on the opportunity to hear her story. I never had the opportunity to hear about her favorite childhood memories, how she met my grandfather or what her wedding day was like. Therefore, my goal with this project is to piece back together the identities of Alzheimer’s patients in an effort to preserve and value their contributions to their communities and to the lives of their loved ones, while also raising awareness and understanding of the disease.

During this project, I, with the help of my sister, am interviewing different patients with some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia at a nursing home near my house. We talk to the patients about their childhood, teenage years, careers, marriage, family etc. We record these interviews and transcribe them afterwards. We will compile the stories of each individual and any photographs that are provided, creating a narrative captured in the form of a storybook. My sister and I hope to be able to present this storybook to the patient’s family, as a way for them to preserve the memories of their loved ones.

The money generously awarded to me by Deerfield Academy and Workman Grants is being used in this project to provide the materials to make the storybooks, as well as to cover transportation costs to and from the nursing home.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.