This is a guest post by Caitlin Johnston, the founder and CEO of Memory Mats, a product that aims to help recollection in Alzheimer’s patients. Caitlin and FFAB became connected through their passion of helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families – as well as saving memories. Caitlin also founded the Purple Elephant Campaign to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s – at the younge age of 25! We wanted to share her story with you to give a different perspective on the disease to the ones we’ve been posting recently. We hope you enjoy her story!
At 21 years old and I had entered into what seemed at the time to be a hidden world. I was hired as Program Manager and Volunteer Coordinator of a Long Term Care Home. Myself, and 8 others managed and supervised 250 staff that all cared for 204 seniors. My world had shifted in a big way, as everyone I was spending most of my time with was 70-104 years of age. I quickly learned that you couldn’t become attached to these beautiful people since their life span was now 6 months – 5 years. They all shared wonderful stories with me, gave me life lessons and tons of laughs. What really hit home with me was that each time I had a conversation with most of them their memory was declining. They had started to forget their children, nieces, nephews and significant others. Their loved ones would walk through the door and they would be more excited to say hello to me than their life partner that they had spent 50 years growing old with. This tore my heart to shreds.
No one should have their memory ripped from them. Is that not what life is all about? The experiences? Your first kiss, your graduation, learning to drive, buying your first house, watching your children grow up, celebrating your friend’s birthdays. If you can imagine all of this slipping away from your mind as you try to hold on. In the first stages of Alzheimer’s you know you’re forgetting and you cannot do a damn thing about it. You’re scared, embarrassed, agitated and just want to scream at the world….. But no one can save you. There is no cure, prevention or delay.
This is why I decided to start a company called Memory Mats. Recollection is the key to strengthen our minds. Creating new neuro pathways in our brain by doing things like starting a new hobby, playing mind games or getting out of routine all contribute to brain health. Memory Mats offers products that assist in the area of reminiscence therapy. Using your own photos and descriptive text on our mats will help associate moments of the past and evoke memories that will encourage consistent reminders of people, places and things.
Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise. It is the new black. It is the new cancer. Learn about it because I promise you in one way or another you or someone you know will be affected by it.
I believe in creative memory tools rather than medicating to alleviate behaviors in the moment. Everyone has a story to share and we all need to help save the memories!