By Alicia McElhaney
When Max Wallack was 6 years old, his family took in his great grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Wallack and his family members became her caretakers, aiding her in simple daily tasks and helping to stimulate her brain.
Wallack’s family, like so many others who become caregivers for family members with Alzheimer’s disease, struggled with the disease daily.
However, Wallack tried to make the best of the situation. By age 12, Wallack had founded Puzzles To Remember, a non-profit charity that distributes therapeutic puzzles at no cost to Alzheimer’s facilities around the world.
Wallack, now 17, has continued to work to aid families who deal with Alzheimer’s disease. He recently co-authored the book, “Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? An Explanation of Alzheimer’s Disease for Children.”
The book was not only inspired by Wallack’s own experiences with Alzheimer’s, but also the story of a family from New York who has a 6-year-old girl and a grandmother with Alzheimer’s.
The story features a young girl named Julie and her own observations about her grandmother’s disease.
At first, Julie notices that her grandmother forgets things here and there. As time goes on, Julie notices bigger changes, like that she has to repeat herself often to be understood, or that her grandmother has started putting things in strange places.
During the story, Julie’s family reminds her that these things are normal to Grandma, and that they are a part of her disease. When Julie wonders whether the things her grandma does are her fault, her family again reassures her.
The story includes kid-friendly diagrams that attempt to explain what is happening in the brain with the disease. Instead of using neurons and synapses in the drawings, Wallack used a baseball player throwing a baseball.
A hopeful tale that aims to educate children about Alzheimer’s disease, “Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?” explains the disease with a lighthearted tone accessible to children.
“Many children simply do not understand the disease. They worry they may catch it. They worry they may be responsible,” Wallack said. He hopes to educate children who have a family member suffering from the disease in order to make things seem less scary.
This book is not just for kids, though, according to Wallack.
“It has been written for children, but more and more I hear that adults feel it is helpful to them also. There really is no other book that explains Alzheimer’s disease to young children, equips them with coping skills and, at the same time, does so in a positive, loving, non-scary light,” Wallack said.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?” by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $12.95) can be found online at www.amazon.com or in select bookstores.