In 2017, Tilden Preparatory School student and CEO of the care-package company Alzheimer’s Brain Box, Victoria Da Conceicao was enjoying life with her grandmother, but when a doctor diagnosed her grandmother with Alzheimer's, life for the pair took a depressing turn. For her safety, Da Conceicao’s grandmother had her driver’s license taken away, and completing daily errands and trips became a difficult task. As she lost her ability to remember, and relate with others socially, family and friends visited less often. Victoria, on the other hand, remained hopeful and wanted to help.
The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's is growing — and growing fast. Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, an annual report released by the Alzheimer's Association, reveals the burden of Alzheimer's and dementia on individuals, caregivers, government and the nation's health care system.
The experience of Da Conceicao and her grandmother mirrors that of countless others. Reports show that nearly six million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, which causes memory loss and cognitive decline in its patients, whom are usually among the older generation. Chances of developing Alzheimer’s becomes more likely after age 65.
Alzheimer’s patients become dependent, a condition which often places financial and emotional stress on families. Many caregivers grapple to balance taking care of their loved ones and maintaining an outside job, career, or educational pursuit. Life for the patients can seem to lose it’s meaning.
“Sometimes, when people get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s they just stay locked away in their house watching TV,” said Da Conceicao. “I was asking myself how I could make things better for my grandmother and me?"
Da Conceicao was not backing down. Her love for her grandmother set her on a quest to take action. She began researching ways to care for Alzheimer’s patients. She found essential oils which reduced the side effects of her grandmother’s medication, calming lavender, rosemary, and lemon, as well as coloring books to keep her grandmother focused. She put these items together in care packages so that her grandmother would have something exciting to look forward to each day.
It was this routine which inspired Da Coneicao to launch her care package-delivering company Alzheimer’s Brain Box, so that others would be able to buy care packages, which are also called Brain Boxes, for their loved ones. The company, which started as a 16-year-old high schooler making boxes of feel goods for her grandmother, soon began generating interest across the Bay area.
Within months, Alzheimer’s Brain Box received international media coverage.
“I started making them July 18 of that year,” said Da Conceicao. “I bought these boxes and they were too big. When things really started picking up was in October, I went to the Alzheimer’s walk, and I was really surprised as to how many people were walking up to my booth.”
Da Conceicao was featured by the AARP and several west coast news outlets. A notable feature of the product is the optional customized coloring book, which depict scenes from a patient’s own life so that a patient can color in their own memories.
“Somebody sent me a picture of their wife who has Alzheimer’s riding a tractor, that’s really what she liked to do when she was young,” said Da Conceicao. “And so as she was coloring it, she was like ‘Oh wow that’s me!’.” “It resonates with the patient more than ordinary coloring books,” Da Conceicao added.
As she finishes up high school, Da Conceicao is making plans for her first year in college at Northwestern University, where she plans to study Neuroscience to develop more potent Alzheimer’s care. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but studies show that the regular engagement in focusing activities such as the Sudoku puzzles and coloring books in Da Conceicao’s Brain Box, is correlated with greater happiness, better function and even lower mortality rates for seniors. Da Conceicao wants the world to know that young people should be given the chance to follow their passions.
“I’m showing people that the younger generation cares,” Da Conceicao said. “I don’t know why people get so mad about our generation, like we’re not all that bad.”
"Through advocacy, awareness, and research funding, I believe that we will find a cure and end Alzheimer's. Until then, we must remain hopeful and caregivers must remember to practice self-care."
Interested caregivers can shop for Brain Box subscriptions online at https://www.alzheimersbrainbox.com/shop
Victoria Da Conceicao (pictured here) created Alzheimer's Brain Box at the age of sixteen to raise research funds when her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Brain Box is the sole vendor of neuro-stimulative Alzheimer's care packages.