By Victoria Feng, Assistant Editor and AKOM and Money Smarts Editor
Hailey Richman is the founder of Kid Caregivers and serves as the assistant director for Puzzles to Remember. She became interested in helping those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers alike after her grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. She wants to create a meaningful connection between seniors and kids. Currently, Hailey is exploring new ways to help those with Alzheimer’s. Read on to find out more about Hailey and her amazing organization!
AK (Amazing Kids): What inspired you to start writing the blog “Kid Caregivers” and start Puzzles to Remember?
Hailey Richman (HR): My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when I was four years old. I spent a lot of time with her, helping to take care of her and providing companionship. I wanted to meet other kids who are also helping to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease but could not find any other kids. I had questions and wanted to hear about other kids and their experiences. I decided to create a support group for kids who are caring for a loved one. I wanted them to know that they are not alone! I also wanted to share tips, ideas, and suggestions about caring for a loved one with dementia. I learned a lot through my own experiences with my grandmother and the other seniors at her facility who have dementia. My support group offers advice for kids, and if any kids have problems, I want to help provide suggestions and problem-solve with them! In addition, I bring children to the nursing home, and we spend time with the seniors. Our activities include listening to music with headphones on an iPod, which brings lots of smiles; using the Hasbro JOY FOR ALL robotic companion pets to entertain; and puzzle-solving. I pair up kids with seniors that do not have any visitors, so they can have quality time together. Puzzle-solving is a great activity for seniors with dementia. It stimulates the part of the brain that controls mood and feelings. When a senior with dementia solves a puzzle, it gives him or her a purpose, an accomplishment. I learned about Max Wallack (another HASBRO Community Action Hero nominated by GenerationON) and his 501c3 charitable organization from my mom. He collects, distributes, and solves puzzles with seniors in nursing homes. His organization has distributed over 4,000 puzzles. I started collecting and distributing puzzles as well. I took many puzzles to facilities and spent time with seniors solving puzzles. He saw how hard I was working and offered me the role of Assistant Director for Puzzles to Remember. I am so happy that I am able to help!
AK: What was the most challenging part of creating your nonprofit?
HR: The most challenging part of creating my nonprofit organization was “getting the word out” that we exist. I have involved social media but would love for more people to be aware that we exist!
AK: Why do you bring puzzles to those suffering from dementia?
HR: Puzzle-solving stimulates the “visual cortex” area of the brain. Studies show that when people with dementia are working on an activity that exercises the brain, it can help improve their mood, keep them calm, reduce agitation, and help (temporarily) with their memory. Also, it makes the person feel good if they solve a puzzle. They have a “purpose” and a sense of accomplishment. Solving puzzles with dementia patients helps to make them “more there”! Even seniors without dementia can enjoy exercising their brains with puzzles!
AK: You were named as a Hasbro Community Action Hero. How do you feel about receiving this award?
HR: I am thrilled beyond belief. It is such an amazing honor. I hope all the attention that comes from receiving this award will help “get the word out” that our two organizations, Kid Caregivers and Puzzles to Remember, are here to help the families, especially the children who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
AK: Can you explain how “caregivers” can help loved ones?
HR: Caregivers can help a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease by spending time with them. Even if someone has Alzheimer’s disease, there is still a real person with feelings inside. They still can enjoy life! The caregiver should go into the world of Alzheimer’s disease, avoid asking questions that require memory, agree with the patient, and realize that there are still good times that can happen!
AK: What are your goals for the future?
HR: I am in contact with the Alzheimer’s association and am hoping to join their outreach program so that I can speak to other kids directly about caregiving! I am also writing a book and creating a memory device for seniors with dementia to prevent falling!
AK: What advice would you give to our readers about following their dreams and making a difference?
HR: Think about a need that doesn’t exist and how you can make a difference. Do not give up; do not be afraid to try something new. Believe in yourself and your abilities.
AK: Is there anything else you would like to add?
HR: Thank you for giving me this opportunity for sharing my story!