Bryanna Ippolito worked with Alzheimer’s patients while in high school, and the experience changed her life.
“Helping people with Alzheimer’s is close to my heart,” says Ippolito, a junior nutritional sciences major. “I had the opportunity to participate in a long-term program assisting nursing home patients with the disease. Ever since, I knew that I wanted to work in health care.”
She wants other students who someday may be working with Alzheimer’s patients to understand what it’s like to live with the disease, a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and affects more than 5.5 million Americans.
To accomplish that, Ippolito developed a program that includes simulated exercises for students to complete. She limited their abilities by blasting music on headphones and by having students wear oven mitts on their hands to simulate a loss of motor function. To create the sensation of unexpected aches and pains, she had some students put balls of tinfoil in their shoes.
“I had students do everyday tasks while stimulating their senses into confusion, which made those tasks far more difficult,” she says. “My goal was to create greater empathy in future health care workers who may be working closely with people that have the disease. The more people understand the difficulties of this disease, the more we understand how we can care for those who are suffering with it.”
In recognition of the success of the project, the Office of Residence Life awarded Ippolito the 2018 Program of the Year award.
After Ippolito graduates with her nutritional sciences degree in 2020, she plans on applying to either to the accelerated nursing program or the master of public health dietetics program.
In the meantime, she gained work experience over the summer as a diet technician in Winchester Hospital.
“My summer at Winchester Hospital was awesome,” she said. “I educated patients on how nutrition can help improve illnesses and disease. I made sure all patients were following their correct diets, and I even did some clinical work where I asked patients about their nutrition history.”
Ippolito is grateful that she found her second home at UMass Lowell.
“I fell in love with UMass Lowell when I toured here. It's close to my home in Billerica, and South Campus was the homelike feeling that I wanted to find in a school.”