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‘Bring a little joy to their life’: New subscription service boxes up activities for those with dementia

The "Pack Your Suitcase" game is inside the Gleam in Your Eye box.
The “Pack Your Suitcase” game is inside the Gleam in Your Eye box, which is filled with activities for people with dementia.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

An idea born in La Jolla to help improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones is officially rolling out, with the first Gleam in Your Eye box shipped Oct. 1.

The subscription-based service sends a box of activities every month adapted for those with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. It includes different activities to activate different parts of the brain, created with guidance from therapists in the field.

One-time La Jolla resident Marie Vaudry created Gleam in Your Eye after her mother progressed from early-stage Alzheimer’s to more advanced stages. Her mother was diagnosed in 2011.

“Three years after her diagnosis, my mom started to get very frustrated that she could not do her normal pastimes, such as crossword puzzles or reading a book,” Vaudry said. “She was depressed, and I was sad to see my mom like that. She would watch TV all day because she couldn’t do anything else, but she never watched much TV before.”

Vaudry started to research ways she could provide other activities and enhance her mother’s quality of life. She contacted health professionals to better understand the disease and realized there was nothing on the market specifically for people with dementia.

Marie Vaudry is the founder of Gleam in Your Eye.
Marie Vaudry launched a publishing company in La Jolla to produce an activity book for people with dementia. She then started the Gleam in Your Eye box.
(Courtesy of Gleam in Your Eye)

Soon after, Vaudry moved to La Jolla, where she launched a publishing company to produce an activity book to try to fill that void. For example, there are hidden word puzzles, adapted so they are only listed horizontally so they are easy to find, using only words recommended by specialists.

Wanting to do more, she expanded into other activities.

She opted for a subscription service in which everything for all the games comes in one box through the mail. In the first Gleam in Your Eye box, the theme is a vacation around the United States.

Each box contains five categories of games developed with therapists to stimulate the brain in five ways that are productive for those with Alzheimer’s: sensory, movement, art, logic and language.

The game “Pack Your Suitcase” has an envelope with a suitcase printed on it, and three cubes with cards on all sides. Some cards have full pictures (for example, a pair of socks), some have partial pictures (for example, a half bar of soap), some have clues (“a device for taking photos”), all for things that might go in a suitcase. Participants roll the cubes like dice and say what they see on the card. When they successfully identify an object, they can put that card in the “suitcase” envelope.

“I thought of caregivers at home that might not have time to come up with activities for the people in their care,” said Vaudry, who now lives in Bay Ho. “I thought of my dad, who was so busy before my mother was moved to a nursing home, preparing meals, helping her get dressed, to do everything. I wanted to create something that will come in one box in the mail. They can enjoy a good moment with the loved ones.”

“In my family tree, you can find Alzheimer’s on every branch,” La Jolla resident Brian Cluster said of the members of generations before him who died from the disease.

“The goal is to bring a little joy to their life and provide something for the loved ones to do when they go to visit,” Vaudry added. “Sometimes people don’t know what their loved one can do because they don’t have much time to spend with them. … One person we tested the box with said she didn’t know her [loved one] could still write, but he loved the writing game. She was surprised and happy to see that. And that’s what we want.”

Though her mother’s illness is too advanced for her to use these activities, Vaudry said, “I’m very happy to help families, because there was something missing in this experience and [it’s] an opportunity to bring smiles to people.”

Learn more at gleaminyoureye.com. ◆