Julissa Cruz’s Children’s Book Explains Why Dementia Makes Granny Forget.

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By Julissa Cruz

Why Does Granny Forget Things?Two years ago (on one of my family vacations) I realized that my 10-year-old niece suffered a lot from her grandmother’s cognitive disorders. Especially her short-term memory. In my eagerness to want to help her understand what was happening in Granny’s brain, I set out in search of a book or story that would explain to children what dementia was. As I did not find anything suitable, I decided to write the story myself, not only for her, but for all the children of Latin America and the Netherlands! This is how my children’s book was born: Why Does Granny Forget Things? A trip to the brain!  In 2022, the English version was released.

In this story, my niece, along with her cousin, a cat and a dog, undertake a wonderful journey to their grandmother’s brain to understand what is happening there. There they meet Mr. Hippocampus and see the neurons up close. It is a beautiful story where children learn that love, patience and empathy is what their grandparents with cognitive problems need the most. The story is complemented by an educational guide for parents and guardians, where in a more formal and professional way, it explains what dementia is and its impact on a global level is defined. This also has the tips (from WHO and the Alzheimer’s Association) on how to approach the subject with children.

I thought to myself that my niece had to go to her grandmother’s brain to understand what the problem was. I wanted to demonstrate that children could understand in a somewhat scientific way what is going on.  I think adults should not underestimate children. They can understand a story about Alzheimer’s and the brain. Children are really intelligent and they have that kind of intuition to feel and know that something is going wrong, so you have to tell the truth. Obviously in a compassionate and loving way and this has been fortunately achieved by the book!

An important message of the book is how powerful love, empathy and compassion are. That is what those people need the most. Therefore, the relevance of transmitting this message starting from the smallest, in order to create a more dementia friendly society. My dream is that this book could be translated in all languages and to be used as a schoolbook. 

I am a very creative person. I’m also the kind of person who appreciates the color, beauty and harmony of spaces. And of course, there is no doubt that my Latin American and Caribbean background has a marked influence on the book. My desire is to take the reader to that whole Caribbean environment full of magic, color and love! When the book was launched (Spanish and Dutch version), I made a gift with some cardboard with aromas of the most emblematic moments in the book, like when they were on the beach (sun, sand, sea and subtle coconut), the moment when my little niece was very sad (night beach, palm trees and fresh grass) or when the children smell what their grandmother is cooking (cozy and sweet aromas of strawberry, grape and vanilla). It was a complete multi sensorial experience. I was also very demanding when choosing an illustrator. Gustavo de Simone (Argentine) met all my expectations.

About the Author

Julissa CruzJulissa Cruz Gómez is a Dominican elder physician who lives and works in the Netherlands. Since childhood she has shown a special interest in social issues. At the age of fourteen, she and other adolescents formed part of several youth groups in Santo Domingo, her hometown. In 2015, along with other colleagues in the Netherlands, she founded an association of foreign doctors with the hope and aim of making the task of registering as a doctor in Holland more manageable. In 2017 she fulfilled one of her grandest dreams, to take a medical mission to the Dominican Republic with the goal of improving the health of Dominican children. She loves the universe and the stars, history, art and the cello. Reading, listening, traveling, hiking and enjoying the small things in life are the things she enjoys most.




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