One Chapman student’s family is helping aid research to cure a currently incurable disease by raising almost $10,000. Paloma Williams can’t stand that her grandma can’t remember who she is.
“I have watched her go from a brilliant, intelligent, artistic person, into a helpless, scared child,” said Williams, a senior integrated educational studies major. “She is my only grandparent, so it was hard on me, as she really isn’t my grandma anymore.”
Hillard Kaplan, who joined Chapman’s Economic Science Institute in September, may be able to help. The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging recently awarded him a five-year $3.7 million grant for Alzheimer’s research. It’s the largest federal grant in Chapman’s history, according to a Chapman blog post.
Whether it’s through research or coping methods, Chapman students have responded in different ways to news of their family members’ Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It is an irreversible brain disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, that the Alzheimer’s Association estimates 5.5 million Americans have in 2017.
After her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Williams was 14, Williams and her family moved from London, England, to Palos Verdes, California, to take care of her.
Using books, internet research and medication, Williams and her family have tried to find ways to slow the deterioration of her grandmother’s brain. They fell in love with art therapy, since Williams’s grandmother was an artist, and Williams’s mother hires an artist to visit Williams’s grandmother twice a week.
But still, Williams said, there is no cure.
For the past two months, Williams and her family have posted on every social media platform to ask for donations for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Nov. 5, hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Their team, the Delta Gamma Legacies, raised $9,780 at the walk in Los Angeles. It was the family’s second walk, as Williams said she and her family walk and fundraise once a year.
Seventy-nine percent of the association’s annual expenses go to care, support, research, awareness and advocacy activities, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Williams is particularly interested in stem cell research.
“I️ know that Alzheimer’s affects part of the brain, so through stem cells, there is a potential to replace those damaged cells,” Williams said.
Instead of looking solely at the brain, Kaplan also looks at arteries – the Tsimane tribe’s, in particular. “
If you understood the sequence of events of a bad lifestyle and how it changed chemical reactions in brains and compared to the healthy aging, then you might be able to see which drug interventions might switch off those bad processes,” Kaplan said. “What’s elusive right now is, what is that chain of processes that leads to Alzheimer’s, and what makes it worse?”
Williams is interested in healing Alzheimer’s through a healthy lifestyle.
“I am a strong believer in healing through nutrition and naturally, rather than medically,” said Williams, who is vegan and eats a gluten-free diet. “I definitely believe that living a healthy lifestyle can bring many benefits throughout someone’s life.”
Junior business administration major Paul Vasquez lost his grandmother, Josephine Vasquez, to Alzheimer’s six years ago, but he could not recall any bad lifestyle choices his grandmother made.
“She was living a healthy lifestyle. She would have a garden she would tend to,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez’s grandmother was unable to regain her memory. The efforts to help her, such as using pictures to recall relatives she’d forgotten, did more harm than good, he said. And Vasquez’s family didn’t look into how to turn the dial back on her failing memory.
“Her generation, they had no idea about internet or any of that, so there was really no way for her to do her own research,” Vasquez said.