As Richman grew a little more, she looked online for a support group for children whose lives have been touched by the disease. When she couldn't find one, she took matters into her own hands.
“I created this online support group for kids who were also dealing with caring for family members with the disease and needed support,” explained Richman. “This support group is written for kids by kids, and it makes me feel awesome because I want kids to know they’re not alone.”
The group is called Kid Caregivers, and offers answers to questions children might have about Alzheimer’s and what their loved one is going through.
The site has tips for bonding activities and information on what to expect and how to act.
It was through research with her mother on different support groups and how Alzheimer’s affects the brain that Richman found Max Wallack, founder and executive director of the organization Puzzles to Remember.
The organization has distributed over 88,000 puzzles to over 5,100 facilities across the world, and Richman discovered that puzzles have a calming effect on dementia patients.
“Puzzles calm the visual cortex, which makes people with Alzheimer’s more calm and brings back short-term memory,” Richman said. “It brings my Grandma a sense of purpose and accomplishment.”
Richman has been promoted to associate director of Puzzles to Remember. She answers the bulk of the emails, arranges for people to drop off puzzles to facilities locally and internationally, and has taken over the PuzzlesToRemember Facebook page.
“Not only has Hailey continued my work, she has significantly expanded on it,” said Wallack. “She has added the important personal element of spending time at the nursing homes, interacting with the patients, and, now, she is even including many other young people in her efforts.”
All of these efforts earned Richman the silver (State Honoree) and gold (National Honoree) Prudential Spirit of Community medals. She was one of 10 people that won the gold.
“It was such an amazing experience winning this award,” she said. “I won the award for Grandma, for the people who suffer from the Alzheimer's disease and the families who love them, especially the kids!”
Richman plans to donate some of the award money to Alzheimer’s research, as well as turn Kid Caregivers into a nonprofit organization.
“She’s accomplished more in her 11 years than I have in my entire life, said mom Emma. “We took a heartbreaking circumstance and instead of sitting around being sad, we used it to help other people going through the same thing. I’m extremely proud of her.”