Since childhood, I have had a deep connection with my grandmother. From playing cards and listening to anecdotes about her childhood to sleeping on her lap as she softly massages my head putting me in a slumber. For the past few years, my grandmother has been fighting a battle she doesn’t know she’s fighting. Like a succulent grape drying up in the sun, Alzheimer’s is degenerating my grandmother’s memory. As time passed, I saw first-hand as her memory deteriorated; she started forgetting family events, relatives and also went into depression. While the effects were more noticeable, the biggest hit came on a terrible evening.
“Come quickly! Grandma is missing,” my mom shouted with urgency. My heart skipped a beat, and I got butterflies in my stomach. Immediately, I bolted downstairs to search for her. A sea of pessimistic thoughts and fear engulfed me. The calm environment juxtaposed the chaos that ensued in my mind as I bellowed “Nani(grandmother).” As if God gave me a four-leafed-clover, a friend found her in a nearby neighbourhood. In the aftermath of this event, I could only think of what could have been.
Motivated, I sought to unravel the tangles of Alzheimer’s that hindered patients’ well-being. Using my passions for neuroscience and computer science, I strived to innovate a solution for Alzheimer’s patients in their early stages. While experts worldwide are collaborating to create remedies, my mission is to improve the quality of life for patients. Consequently, I pondered about this problem scenario and came up with a creative approach to achieve my goal. I conceptualized using my coding skills to develop an app that aids people with Alzheimer’s disease through their daily life.
To better understand the issue at hand, I visited a rehabilitation center with patients at higher stages of Alzheimer’s disease. While I was aware of the effects of severe Alzheimer’s disease, to see them was heart-breaking. The patients forgot their families and lost their sense of identity. They would repetitively tell me about themselves, each variation of their story vastly different from the previous one. To say that Alzheimer’s is a brain disease is an understatement. It’s a disease that plagues a person’s identity, what defines them, and affects their entire family. I was thankful to the workers at the center and sought their inputs for my app. Following these consultations with experts like neurologists, Alzheimer’s rehabilitation centers, physiotherapists, etc, I implemented features for safety, enjoyment, and daily care.
Additionally, I considered solving problems from my personal experiences with my grandmother. Culminating these ideas, I developed an Android app with features for navigation, assisting lost patients, displaying exercises, displaying photos/videos (of loved ones), signalling medicine reminders, etc. To promote my mission, I conducted an awareness session with a panel of experts about Alzheimer’s disease and exhibited my app, drawing an attendance of 70+ people.
My grandmother has been my greatest motivator. It’s great to know I’m at her heart while her memory/brain is slowly degrading. It brings joy to me that I can impact this cause, but I’m nowhere near satisfied yet. I hope someday people like my grandmother can live a happy life without forgetting it. I hope they can forget forgetfulness (my app’s name)!