Hailey Richman, 10, of Long Island City, N.Y., a fifth-grader at Public School 78, has placed more than 10,000 jigsaw puzzles in nursing homes and other senior living facilities over the past three years, and created an online support group for kids around the world who have loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. When Hailey was just 4 years old, her beloved grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “She has been my best friend,” said Hailey. “I realized how hard it must be to have a poor memory.” Hailey began bringing a simple puzzle with her when she visited her grandmother’s memory care facility. She noticed that not only was it something they could do together, but solving the puzzle made her grandmother happy.
It wasn’t long before Hailey was setting up donation boxes in libraries, the post office and building lobbies in her neighborhood to collect jigsaw puzzles for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and memory care residences. She also recruited Girl Scout troops and other young people to visit the homes, where she paired each with an adult and gave them a puzzle to do together. For her efforts in distributing puzzles around the globe, Hailey was given a leadership role in a nonprofit organization called “Puzzles to Remember,” and is now responsible for its Facebook page. Hailey also created a website at www.kidcaregivers.com to offer tips, ideas and support to kids dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient in their families, reaching online audiences as far away as Saudi Arabia, Tibet and Sri Lanka. “There are wonderful ways you can spend time with someone who has Alzheimer’s,” she said. “You can still have a good time together, even when they are not doing well.”