BOSTON —A local teenager is on a mission to find treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and to improve the quality of lives for those afflicted.
Max Wallack, 17, found one surprising way to help — puzzles.
At Compass on the Bay in South Boston, seniors with memory problems enjoy jigsaw puzzles.
But these aren’t just any puzzles. Wallack specifically designed them for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They have large pieces and are small in number.
“There was some research that said just doing cognitive activities and doing puzzles could provide them with a sense of accomplishment and achievement that they don’t usually get,” said Wallack.
Wallack’s passion comes from a personal place. His great grandmother had Alzheimer’s and was in and out of nursing homes the last year of her life.
“I saw her and other residents doing jigsaw puzzles, and they were calmer and less agitated,” said Wallack.
So when he was just 12, he founded Puzzles to Remember, and convinced a major puzzle-maker to manufacture them. Today, more than 24,000 puzzles have been distributed around the world.
“To see someone so young, and truly appreciate and understand that these are people who still have abilities, and that he tapped into those abilities and realized the need for having a sense of purpose in their day is quite remarkable,” said Tad Cleeland, of Senior Living Residences.
Wallack’s accomplishments don’t end there. He also wrote a children’s book about Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s trying to teach children not be afraid of the person but still love them,” he said.
As for the future, Wallack, already a junior at Boston University, is doing research at the School of Medicine’s Psychiatry in Aging lab.
“Right now we are working on a hormone to both diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s. Anything I can do to help people from getting this disease, I want to do that,” said Wallack.
“Max Wallack is a unique, passionate, driven, brilliant kid who in his 17 years has already made unbelievable contributions to the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Bob Stern, of Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
“I always believed if you have the ability to help others, you have the responsibility to do so,” said Wallack.
Wallack wants to be a geriatric psychiatrist and he’s already looking at medical schools.