Jun 27, 2010

My Friend, Carole Larkin

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

On January 23, 2010, Bob DeMarco introduced me to Carole Larkin. I’m sure many of you know who Carole is, but, for those that don’t, Carole is a Geriatric Care Manager. Her company is Third Age Services is located in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area.

I’d have to say if things supposedly grow biggest in Texas, it makes sense to me because Carole Larkin has one of the biggest hearts I’ve encountered. Not only was Carole a caregiver to her mom, who had Alzheimer’s, but Carole devotes her life to improving the lives and living situations of those with Dementia. Carole supports not only the patients, but their families as well.

In all my interactions with Carole, I can feel the kindness emanating from her. She has a kind of youthful exuberance, and a positive, can-do attitude. This is the kind of interaction that caregivers need. They need someone that can give them hope that things can be better. Carole is that person.

Carole is now a staunch supporter of PuzzlesToRemember.

How did a middle-aged woman in Texas become such a valued friend and a supporter of a nonprofit agency run by a boy in Massachusetts?

I asked Carole some questions, so you can find out!

How did you first become aware of Puzzles To Remember?

From the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. Max had wrote articles and poems and Bob DeMarco, editor of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room , highlighted Max’s nonprofit in an article. Bob pointed readers to Max’s website and I viewed it. The more I read the more I wanted to help this noble and useful cause.

When Max told me of his intent to get puzzles specifically made for the Alzheimer’s population, because none exists right now, I was really hooked. Not only did I order a box for my local Alzheimer’s communities, but I tried as best I could to spread the puzzles as far as I could.

I would (and still do) go into a facility with a puzzle or two, tell the activity person, administrator or basically anyone I could get to stop and listen for a minute or two, Max’s story and give them the puzzles. I then would ask them to order a shipment of puzzles from Max, and give him at least $25 to cover shipping costs. Puzzles to Remember collects puzzles via donations from puzzle manufactures and individuals and then ships them to Alzheimer's care facilities all over the United States. If an Alzheimer's care facilities wants puzzles to use in the caring of Alzheimer's patients they can obtain a box of ten or more puzzles by paying for the cost of shipping. This is not a requirement, Max often pays the cost of shipping from grants and awards he has won. A typical shipment of puzzles has a retail value of $150.

Carole, why did you decide to send money and ask for a shipment of Puzzles?

I sent money for the shipping of puzzles because it shouldn't cost Max anything to do the good he is doing for Alzheimer’s sufferers -- not even shipping costs. I wanted to give him a little more than shipping costs so that there was some money left over to go towards payment the development of “just right” puzzles for Alzheimer’s patients.

I had hoped that each big box of puzzles Max sent out would cost less than $25 so that he’d make money on each and every box to go towards the envelopment of those "just right" puzzles.

With as tough as things are today in the senior housing field (lots of vacancies) I knew that asking for much more than $25 would be a death knell to facilities ordering more boxes. I’d always point out that they should get between 8-10 puzzles in each box, so each puzzle wouldn’t cost much more than $3 and some change, at the most. They weren’t going to get a better deal at any local store (my sales technique!).

Carole, how many facilities have received puzzles as a result of your efforts?

It looks to me like 52 in Texas and 10 in Illinois.

Carole, how many facilities have contacted Max and sent him money to cover the shipping costs of puzzles as a direct result of your delivering puzzles to them?

Five facilities so far have gotten directly involved.

What feedback have you received from facilities about the use of the puzzles? Do you believe that doing puzzles is beneficial for Alzheimer's patients? What do you think the benefits are?

The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The resident’s, clients, patients all love the puzzles. So why aren’t the communities ordering more? I don’t know. They'll learn soon enough of the benefit of doing puzzles and how puzzles not only improve memory bit also change the look on an Alzheimer's patients face.

What do you think about the new puzzles being developed by Springbok?

I’m so excited I can barely stand it. I can’t wait to get them out there!!!

Editor Note: You can read about the puzzles that are being designed by Sprinbok and for Puzzles to Remember -- Special Puzzles For Alzheimer's Patients.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

A couple of observations: Many of the communities looked at me suspiciously until I gave them the flyers that you and Bob had made up, and I told them to go to your website and check it out.

They just couldn’t believe that I was giving them something for nothing. I think that they thought that it was some sort of scam. I understand why they were suspicious, but still it’s sad.

On a happier, if not funnier, note, when I stopped in a halfway house for Veterans in Alton Illinois, I had to walk around the whole place to find the one caregiver who was working that day (It was a Sunday).

The place was in an old building, with a lot of rooms and very narrow hallways. By the time I found the caregiver, there was a line of veterans following me around. It looked like a Mama duck and her little ducklings!

The first veteran lived in Texas for awhile and when he found out that I came from Texas he stuck to me like glue. When I finally found the caregiver and gave her the puzzle and the information about Puzzles to Remember and was getting ready to leave, this guy begged me to take him back to Texas with me. I told him “sorry, I don’t have room in my suitcase for you. You are too tall” He said he understood, and that he’d find another way to get there. I said “Good Luck” and got the heck out of there!

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.

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Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room