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USM Voices: Student Helps Seniors with Alzheimer’s

photo of Kacey Foerster with her grandfather

USM Voices allows students, faculty, staff, alumni and more to share their thoughts about the great things happening at USM.

By Jessica Mellon, Graduate Assistant, School of Education and Human Development

Kacey Foerster ‘21 is taking time to help some special seniors in her community. 

For years, Foerster visited her grandfather, who suffered from Alheimer’s disease, at a local memory-care facility.  She read picture books to him to entertain him and help pass the time.  During his stay there, Foerster met and grew close with some of her grandfather’s friends, as well as other residents who suffered from the same disease.  Sadly, Foerster’s grandfather passed away in the fall of 2018, but the effect of reading on patients with Alzheimer’s planted a seed. 

In the early stages of the pandemic, Foerster began reading to other memory-care residents through Zoom.  The word spread throughout the facility, and more and more residents were interested in this activity that created so much joy.  In fact, the memory-care facility has now asked that she read via Zoom for a larger group of seniors.  

“My grandfather began struggling with his communication, but something that always brought us together was reading,” Foerster said. “Even though he couldn’t form sentences on his own, he was still able to read aloud, which always amazed me.

“My Grampy’s passion for reading drove my curiosity about the relationship between reading and those with memory loss, which is the inspiration behind my Zoom and YouTube readings that take place today,” she said.

Interested in the correlation between Alzheimer’s and reading ability, Foerster has begun the process of securing funding to research the connection between Alzheimer’s disease and reading.  She has recently been selected to participate in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), a research fellowship at USM, and is preparing her submission for the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for at least two memory care facilities.  The IRB is necessary to ensure that Foerster’s research is ethical and humane.

Foerster is a native of Scarborough, Maine and an English major, pursuing her K-8 teacher education.