Mary Frates always loved solving word searches. But when dementia struck after her Alzheimer’s disease advanced she found herself unable to solve the puzzles but she still wanted to. Her grandson, 17 year old John Frates saw her predicament and decided to do something about it. If regular word searches were too difficult he would create user friendly ones for her.
He made a set of puzzles for her with 3 major changes: the letters were very large, the words were easier and there was no hidden word or sentence diagonally across the puzzle or backwards when all the answers were filled. John relates: “Each time I brought her a puzzle her eyes would light up. I think she likes word searches on the topic of vacation because it reminds her of many positive experiences she had.”
His grandmother’s response to his puzzles was so positive that John began giving out the puzzles at the senior citizen’s home where his grandmother lived. After seeing more success with the puzzles he researched the way the puzzles can help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and presented his findings at a Medical and Lifestyle Forum this past October. The experts at the forum were astounded with the brilliance of his invention. Most word searches made for seniors only had large typed letters. But that wouldn’t help for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. Though simple, no one thought of the other changes like making the words and clues easier and not reversing them.
With assistance from his grandmother’s senior citizen home John published his word search book called Grandma & Grandpa's Word Searches. John is donating the profits from the book to Alzheimer’s research.
John says: “The best part of publishing the book was my grandmother’s excitement. She was really happy she was the one who advised me to publish the book so more people could enjoy the word searches.”
Frates’ story brings home the point of really taking care of people suffering from dementia in a proper way. Elderly people that lose some cognitive function are still entitled to enjoy the things they enjoyed before and we should make an effort for that to happen.