Max Wallack Interview

June 2014

Max Wallack, author of Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?

Max Wallack is an 18-year old college senior at Boston University. As a child, he was a caregiver to his great grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. After her death he founded PuzzlesToRemember, a non-profit organisation that designs, collects, and distributes puzzles to Alzheimer’s facilities. He has co-authored a book explaining Alzheimer’s to children, Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?, now available in eight languages (featured in my last Newsletter). Max is a research intern in the Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory in Ageing at Boston University School of Medicine. Over the past year, he has co-authored one abstract and four scientific papers, published in scholarly journals. Max plans to become a geriatric psychiatrist, working with Alzheimer’s patients and their care partners, as well as continuing to conduct research in the field. He also plans to continue his advocacy work.


1. What gave you the idea for your book?
As a child I was a caregiver for my great-grandmother, who lived with my family until she passed away when I was ten years old. Since then, I have become an Alzheimer’s advocate. I founded PuzzlesToRemember, a non-profit (501c3) organisation that has provided over 31,000 jigsaw puzzles to Alzheimer’s facilities around the globe.  Recently, I helped found Clergy Against Alzheimer’s. This network harnesses the powerful and ardent voices of men and women of faith to promote dignity, compassionate care, and quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s, and for their care partners. Over the past two months, over 100 prominent and accomplished members of the clergy have joined this network. I have been an Alzheimer’s researcher for the past three years, and I have co-authored research articles in scientific journals.

2. If you had a magic wand, what would you like your book to achieve?
I would like my book to be available to child caregivers around the world. I would like to provide these children with information, as well as coping skills, to help them continue to have loving relationships with family members who have dementia. I would also like to instill a sense of pride in these young caregivers for the great contribution they are making to someone’s life.

3. Who have you written your book for?
My book is written for an audience of 4 to 9 year olds, roughly kindergarten through third grade. In the US, there are about 1.4 million child caregivers under the age of 18.

4. How did you write your book and how did you illustrate it?
I typed my book into a Word document. Illustrating was a major problem for me, since I am not an outstanding artist. In the end, I had half a dozen or so family and friends sitting around a large table, drawing illustrations as I explained what I envisioned. Then, we passed the drawings around and each made improvements.  Every illustration was a group effort.

5. How long did it take to write your book?
I feel I have been writing my book in my head for the past decade. When it was time to put it down on paper, it only took a day or two, because it had been prepared beforehand. Of course, I spent several months revising, fine-tuning, and illustrating, in conjunction with my co-author, Carolyn Given.

6. What was the most difficult part?
For me, the illustrations were the most difficult part.

7. When was your book published, and where?
My book was first published in June, 2013 through CreateSpace. Since then, it has been published in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Norwegian, and Chinese.

8. How are you reaching the people for whom you have written the book?
I reach my audience through Facebook, Twitter, and membership in Alzheimer’s advocacy groups.

9. What further plans to you have for your book or future books?
I plan to have the book published in several additional languages, and I hope to get the book into more school systems around the world.

10. How can we work together to raise children’s awareness of dementia?
We must try to introduce our books into libraries, houses of worship, and school systems, so they will be readily available to children who need them. We also need to continue to be advocates on behalf of those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. We should be supportive of memory cafés because they represent a great way of bringing knowledge about caregiving to families.

Thank you Max, good luck with your studies, and your amazing work: truly making a difference to many people living with dementia world-wide.

Max’s book is available HERE


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