By Max Wallack
Puzzles to Remember
I have been collecting puzzles and distributing them for the use of Alzheimer’s patients for almost two years. By now, I have supplied almost 5000 puzzles to almost 350 facilities. I often hear back about how greatly the residents are enjoying working on the puzzles. Sometimes, when I have enough information, I try to match the puzzles I have to the needs of the patients. Examples of this might be sending a puzzle with the image of a baby to a patient that has recently become a grandparent or great-grandparent, or providing images of flowers blooming to an individual who had been an avid gardener.
By the frequent feedback I receive, I know the puzzles are making a difference. However, all along I have realized that most of the puzzles I provide, while still quite worthwhile, have serious limitations in their benefits to many Alzheimer’s patients. Many of the puzzles that have been donated have high puzzle piece counts, making them useful mostly to patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment or Early Alzheimer’s Disease. It is rare to find a puzzle with a non-childish image that has a low puzzle piece count and pieces large enough to be easily manipulated, which is what is needed in order to be beneficial to Middle and Later Stage Alzheimer’s patients. I receive requests for this type of puzzle all the time.
Over the past few years, I have given a lot of thought to how I might overcome this dearth of puzzles for those who could most benefit from them. Then, last Spring, I contacted Mr. Steve Pack, President of Springbok Puzzles. Springbok had been one of the first puzzle companies to respond to my request for donations years earlier, so I knew that Springbok was a company that cared about philanthropy. I was overjoyed to hear that Mr. Pack was willing to produce the type of puzzles that would be most beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients.
Working together, PuzzlesToRemember and Springbok Puzzles have been able to make these beneficial puzzles available.
These new puzzles will have a choice of 12 or 36 large pieces. In fact, the overall dimensions of the puzzles will be 18” by 23.5”. Springbok will, initially, be producing 7 different images for their Alzheimer’s puzzles. Several of these are themed for the upcoming December holiday season, potentially bringing the joy of the holidays to individuals who truly need some joy brought into their lives. Springbok, a socially-conscious company, has been producing high quality puzzles since 1964. They use only 100% recycled materials and only vegetable or soy based links.
These Springbok puzzles are scheduled to become available in late October. The response from the Alzheimer’s caregivers’ community has been very positive. People from as far away as New Zealand are awaiting the opportunity to acquire these puzzles. Others are already calling the company, hoping to be able to order these puzzles soon.
I am overjoyed that these puzzles will soon be available. I am hopeful that the sharing of these images between patients and caregivers will open a whole new line of communication, perhaps reviving some lost memories that they might share, even if for only a few moments.
Judith Wolcott, MSW/LCSW, Director of the Butterfield Healthcare/Meadowbrook Manor Homes, expressed her excitement over the upcoming puzzles:
“Oh, Max! I am soooo proud of you!!! You have to know that much of the credit for the development of these special puzzles goes to you!
Our residents at three locations are benefitting greatly from your puzzles. I like to think of your puzzle project as little lights blinking across the United States at all of the locations you have touched...”
The image shown above is one of the puzzle images that will be available for Alzheimer’s patients later this month. At that time, I will post a link on this site to where the puzzles can be ordered. Some of these puzzles will also be donated to where they can do the most good.
Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude Finkelstein, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER , a 501(c.)3 charitable organization. PUZZLES TO REMEMBER is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and other institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.