Apr 29, 2012

"Chosen"

I started out by experiencing the actual caregiving: the joys of seeing that someone who could no long express it, still loved me; the pleasure of putting a moment of happiness, a fleeting smile, on a pained face; the feeling of worth that comes with helping someone with kindness even when I was tired in the middle of the night.

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I know I feel “chosen”.

I feel the responsibility to do something for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Is this why I was given the experience of caring for Great Grams, starting when I was only six? Maybe.

Maybe it was so that I would understand the huge importance of my calling. And, yes, I do feel that helping the deeply forgetful and their caregivers is my calling.

I started out by experiencing the actual caregiving: the joys of seeing that someone who could no long express it, still loved me; the pleasure of putting a moment of happiness, a fleeting smile, on a pained face; the feeling of worth that comes with helping someone with kindness even when I was tired in the middle of the night.

After the day-to-day caregiving came the grasp of empathy: seeing “more there” in the eyes of those patients lined up near the nurse’s station on the dementia unit; realizing that a kind word meant more than I could ever grasp; searching for some activity that could provide these patients with a single glimpse of self-worth, finding an activity that a patient and caregiver could share in a moment of mutual understanding. That’s where PuzzlesToRemember came from.

For me, the death of Great Grams was a sad end, but also a beginning of what I knew I had to do with my live. Many people may not know why they were chosen, but I know. I was chosen so that I would understand how important my life’s mission is. I was chosen so that I would understand that Alzheimer’s disease needs to be fought on two fronts: research for treatments, medicines, and cures, but also education about how to improve the lives of those already living with the disease.

If I had not been chosen, how could I really know those things? If I had not been chosen, how could I understand the importance of working so hard?

Recently, someone asked me how students should go about choosing a field of medicine to study. It was asked of me to find out how I had made this “decision”. I realized I never made that “decision”. I don’t even see or grasp how someone can make a “decision” about something like this. My only “decision” was to realize who I really am, who I was chosen to be, and to pursue my life’s purpose full speed ahead, all the while taking the time to enjoy the friendships of the many wonderful people who know who I am.

Also see -- 2012 AXA Achievementsm Scholarship Winners

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

More Insight and Advice from the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room