MindStart Puzzles and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than 1 million people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease in the US AND over 11 million people provide care for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of Dementia. These statistics hit home for me because my Nani (my great grandmother) had Alzheimer’s Disease. I can say firsthand that this is not only a struggle for those living with it, but also for families, friends, and caretakers of individuals with Alzheimer’s. With the prevalence of this disease, I’m guessing that you may know someone who suffers from it.
So, what’s this got to do with puzzles? Well, I’m so glad you asked. : ) I was scrolling through Puzzle Warehouse’s puzzles-as I often do. Actually, I was looking at all the brands they carry here. I like to check out brands that I’m not necessarily familiar with just for fun (don’t judge me) and let me just say that I’m so glad I did, because this is how I came across MindStart puzzles.
After reading a little bit about them, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. So, I ordered a couple to try out. I wanted to know how they differ from your traditional small piece count puzzles. I mean, there’s a load of small piece count puzzles out there, so why not use them, right? Wrong...Keep reading and I’ll get to that part.
They arrived in boxes that have the image printed directly on them. As you can see, the image is of adult subject matter versus that of a toddler-which many small piece counts traditionally feature. The image on Garden puzzle was noticeably clear.
Garden is a 30-piece count puzzle. You can see that the large pieces made the image easy to decipher.
I also ordered the 60-piece count puzzle, Raking. The 30-piece puzzle had significantly larger pieces compared to the 60-piece one.
Piece size comparison
I especially loved the box because I found it to be multi-purpose. It stood up and could be used as a box stand. Cool, huh?!?
Showing box as the stand for the Garden puzzle
Yet, I still wanted to know more. Since November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I figured, what better time to learn as much as I can about MindStart. After all, they create puzzles specifically for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of Dementia. After reading the summary of their company on Puzzle Warehouse’s website, I went on over to the MindStart website to learn more. I decided to reach out to Monica Heltemes, the owner and creator of this extraordinary company. Naturally, I had a bunch of questions. What can I say, I’m curious like a cat. I wanted to know about her inspiration for developing these puzzles, the benefits of puzzles for patients with Alzheimer’s, why they’re different from regular small-piece count puzzles, and more. She graciously answered all of my many questions (and there was a lot). Here’s what I found out…
Monica shared that she has worked in the health care industry for over 25 years as an Occupational Therapist. One day she had a lady in her office who had been a life-long puzzler. Monica had out a 100-piece puzzle and after the women looked at it, she said that she couldn’t do it, because she was tired, and her eyes hurt. Monica immediately knew that it wasn’t the patient’s eyes that failed her, but her mind due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She added that in 2010, at that time, there were no puzzles less than 50 pieces that were for adults. This is what inspired her to create MindStart puzzles.
If you could, imagine the frustration that individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease feel when they can no longer participate in hobbies they once enjoyed. That is why I think that these puzzles are just so spectacular.
MindStart puzzles come in 12-, 30-, and 60-piece counts. Monica suggested starting with 60 pieces and if this becomes too challenging, moving to a lower piece count. She explained that the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease is comparable to a child’s development but in reverse. The lower the piece count, the more simplistic the puzzle becomes as it requires less cognitive ability to put together.
MindStart puzzles are intended to be familiar and include themes such as hobbies, sports, and seasons all of which are conversation starters, too. The bright colors were another aspect she considered with the images.
MindStart puzzles are versatile as they can benefit people who have macular degeneration and/or difficulty with their eyesight. They can even be used with children including the Montessori approach.
Monica’s mission was to bring joy to individuals and provide them with an opportunity to experience a sense of accomplishment. She wanted people with this disease and other forms of Dementia to remain active and productive. She concluded and I quote: “I am so appreciative that Puzzle Warehouse has been a supporter of MindStart for years, allowing those avid puzzlers facing the tough symptoms of Alzheimer’s to continue with a pastime they have loved..”
So, in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, might you consider purchasing a MindStart Puzzle and donating it to a local nursing home or to someone you know who may be struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease? Let’s be a contributing factor in helping our fellow puzzlers have an opportunity to feel the passion about this hobby again. And as always, make time to puzzle.