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Girl, 11, Uses Puzzles To Help The Elderly Combat Alzheimer's

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A young girl from New York is using a toy to combat a complicated disease.

CBS2's Clark Fouraker spent the day at "Puzzle Time," where patients of all ages work on puzzles to help ward off the symptoms from Alzheimer's.

11-year-old Hailey Richman has gathered other young people to help her out.

"They're so effective because it stimulates the visual cortex inside the brain and it calms them down," she said.

Hailey has distributed some 35,000 puzzles around the country for the effort by the non profit Puzzles to Remember, which leans on peer-reviewed research showing something as simple as puzzles can have a big impact on patients.

High school students and girl scouts volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes.

"She's better than I am that's for sure, but I'd have to say I did a little bit of work here," Elias Kanner said.

The non profit partnered with a company to develop a special type of puzzle suitable for Alzheimer's patients. They include 36 extra-large pieces with images that adults would enjoy.

"Most puzzles that have 36 pieces have Mickey Mouse on them, doesn't mean they need Mickey Mouse," Hailey said. "It's kind of humiliating. I mean, they're still an adult, so it has an image that's stimulating to them."

Hailey's passion for Alzheimer's started after doctors diagnosed her grandmother with the disease when she was four. While helping care for her, she noticed she couldn't find much support.

As a result, she started Kid Caregivers, an online support group for kids.

"We took a very sad time in our lives and are seeing that the only way to have happiness in this world is to give back and make a difference," Hailey's mom, Emma, said.

Emma helps Hailey coordinate Puzzle Time. He daughter won a community spirit award earlier this year, and donated the money she earned to the Cure Alzheimer's fund.

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