Abigail Howell is a junior in the College majoring in Psychology.
Abigail has been working with people living with dementia since her first year of college, where she began volunteering at an adult day health care center for people with Alzheimer's disease and has since done similar work at assisted living communities. She has worked as a nursing assistant in an assisted living on the memory care floor during the pandemic. While she was working there, she saw so many inequities in the long term care industry and this led to her wanting to be able to make a change.
Her research experience began by working with Georgetown Medical School's Memory Disorders Program, where she had exposure to a variety of clinical trials for people living with moderate Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). During the fall semester she was able to work with a team at UNC Chapel Hill on lower rates of COVID-19 in small house model nursing homes. This opportunity was in conjunction with the Green House Project, an organization she is interning at the moment. The Green House Project has around 300 small nursing homes across the country that house 8-12 elders, have a family-centered approach, work closely with elders to maintain autonomy, and employ a universal worker concept for traditional nursing assistants (CNAs). This study was published in JAMDA and found that Green House Homes and other small home nursing homes had significantly lower rates of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates than traditional nursing home models.
Abigail's experience has made her someone who can make a change in the lives of long term care residents and people living with dementia. While she was working as a nursing assistant, she saw a bunch of structural issues that she felt were not justified to help residents in these nursing homes, however she felt that she didn't have the capacity to have a voice on those issues. With the incredible research teams she has worked with, the exposure to such amazing professionals who are so passionate and curious in dementia research is so inspiring to her.
Written by Anddy Serrano-Marcillo