In spending time with his mother in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Eliezer Sobel recognized something astounding. Although she had seemingly lost all of her language skills several years earlier, he discovered that she still enjoyed gazing at pictures in magazines and actually reading the headlines aloud! He searched for a simple picture book with easy-to-read captions in big print, but learned that while there are over 20,000 books for caregivers, there are virtually no books written for dementia patients. L’Chaim: Pictures to Evoke Memories of Jewish Life is an effort to remedy this situation. Created for Jewish elders suffering with memory loss, each page stands alone, requiring no memory to enjoy the rich images. Over 30 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide, with nearly 500,000 new cases diagnosed yearly. L’Chaim is intended to stimulate reminiscence and provide tender moments of connection with our loved ones who suffer from memory-related illnesses.
Eliezer Sobel is the author of Minyan: Ten Jewish Men in a World That Is Heartbroken, which won the prestigious Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel. He also wrote the memoir The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist’s Misadventures.
For my dear father, Max Sobel.
I made a startling discovery about five years ago. Long after my mother had seemingly lost all of her language skills to Alzheimer's disease, I happened upon her leafing through a magazine, looking at pictures and reading the headlines aloud. "Mom can still read!" I thought, and vainly went in search of a simple picture book designed for people suffering with mid-to-late stage dementia.
I learned from the librarian of the National Alzheimer's Association that although there are over 20,000 books available for caregivers of people with memory loss, there are only one or two titles for the actual patient! I made a small contribution to this astounding lack of resources with the first book in this series, Blue Sky, White Clouds: A Book for Memory-Challenged Adults. It was dedicated to my mother, and like the present work, contained beautiful, realistic photographs of people and familiar scenes, along with short, easy-to-read captions in big print, requiring no memory to enjoy.
This new book is specifically geared for use with Jewish dementia patients, and contains imagery that is unique and precious to Jewish life. Remarkably, as I write this, Mom is 92 and still home, well into her 16th year of Alzheimer's, but long past the stage of being able to enjoy even a simple book like this.
I dedicate this one to my dear father, also 92, in deep gratitude for his tireless care of my mother for nearly 13 years. Sadly, not long ago, on their 67th anniversary, Dad tumbled headlong down a stairwell and suffered a near-fatal brain injury. Overnight, he joined Mom in needing full-time, at-home care.
I am hoping that this collection of warm and familiar images of Jewish life will evoke memories, stimulate stories and conversation, and provide my father and countless others like him all over the world with many tender, shared moments of joy and connection with their loved ones. L'chaim!
-- Eliezer Sobel