Andover High School incoming junior Aparna Shanmugam is continuing her efforts in the battle against Alzheimer's disease and the search for a cure.

Over the summer, Shanmugam interned at SCARF in Chennai, India — a nonprofit, schizophrenia research foundation.

In an effort to learn more about how dementia care is provided in other countries, Shanmugam visited an old-age facility called Anandham at Ambattur, Chenai, where she played bingo and memory games with elders.

While in India, Shanmugam also gave a presentation to high school students about Alzheimer's disease and dementia, the prevalence of both, as well as diagnosis and areas of research being conducted to find a cure.

She also conducted a survey among the students to analyze the awareness of the two diseases in Indian high schools. Now, she is working with her friend and partner on the trip, Shrawan Gopal, from Washington, D.C., to go over the survey results and share them with their Indian mentors.

The two shadowed Dr. Nirupama, who gave them exposure to cognitive stimulation tests, used during the care giving cycle in India. They got to witness up-close the work Nirupama and the other doctors do with the dementia patients.

Shanmugam has done work on Alzheimer's since she was in the eighth grade. When a close friend's grandmother died of the neuro-degenerative disorder, it sparked an interest in Shanmugam and she started to delve into research on the internet.

She discovered statistics about the disease that shocked her, and motivated her to take the initiative in the fight against Alzheimer's.

Since then, Shanmugam has been volunteering at Nevin's Nursing Home in Methuen, where she plays memory games, paints, and helps with food services for dementia patients. She also volunteers at Bridges by EPOCH, an assisted living facility in Andover.

With the help of two friends, Shanmugam formed the Alzheimer's Foundation America at Andover High, a teen chapter of the National Alzheimer's Foundation.

She is now working on a research paper in conjunction with Gopal, and has plans to submit the finished work to the American Association of Gediatric Psychiatry.


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