How one family's dementia journey became the inspiration for MindMate.
People often ask about what inspired us to start MindMate. We usually tell them the short story of how Roger’s grandfather Francisco had Alzheimer’s and how caring for him showed the family that tools like MindMate are missing and would improve their quality of life and quality of caring. People normally get it, but to be honest, it’s only a small part of why we really want this to work out. The slightly longer story is about a Mexican mining engineer that travelled around his whole life and one day got lost on his way from L.A. to El Paso. It was a direct bus and he would usually spend his bus ride chatting to people or sleeping. This time, he decided to get out in Tucson, Arizona because he had lost orientation. He had forgotten where he was.
Francisco was born on the 29th of January 1924. He worked as a mining engineer for ASARCO in Parral Chihuahua, Mexico. This is also where he met his wife Carmen who he had 9 children with. Spending time with his six sons and 3 daughters was the greatest for Francisco and seeing the family grow made him very happy. He unfortunately lost 2 of his sons because of a car accident. Still, for Francisco and Carmen it was all about having a full house of happy people, with music, food and lively conversations. Francisco himself usually stayed very calm although he loved to tell everyone stories from the mines. “Last week in the mines, there was a really strange man who came by to ask for a job. He was very small and wore a funny hat…” Francisco & Carmen moved around a lot. They always tried to stay as close to their family as possible but they couldn’t stay in one place for too long. Rogelio remembered one time he helped them pack their things when they were moving from Torreon to L.A. when he was 16 years old. The boxes were heavy and the whole family was slightly annoyed by them moving again. Still, everyone helped. One of the boxes fell on the ground and Rogelio couldn’t help it but say: “Te lo juro por diós.” (“I swear to god!”) Francisco looked at him with his angriest look and Rogelio knew that he probably would have to join them for church this Sunday to make up for it. His grandpa was very religious after all.
When Francisco approached his 70th birthday things started to change. He would forget things and become aggressive which was nothing like him. He stopped to do the gardening and got annoyed by every little thing.
Rogelio knew that something was wrong but it wasn’t before his grandpa kept mixing him up with his father when he realized that it was probably not going back to normal. He started to forget everything about everyone else and finally also about himself. The incident with the bus drive made the whole family quite worried. Carmen kept pictures and tried to save records of her husband’s life but most of it has gotten lost.
Rogelio remembered how hard it was to care for his grandpa and how hard it was to see him change. They hardly got any help and they also didn’t really know what to expect. Rogelio wishes that he knew more about his grandpa’s past and that there was more left of his story or life. A lot of this was inspiring for us. MindMate tried to give people exactly these tools; tools to help them safe all the information that is important to them. But also a tool that supports them in their everyday life and keeps them engaged. We wish Francisco could try the app but he unfortunately already passed away on the 2nd of June 2013. Carmen followed just 2 years later. One of the last memories Rogelio has from his grandpa will stay with him forever. He visited him and wasn’t sure if he would recognize him or not. Francisco smiled at his grandson as soon as he came in but it quickly became clear that he thought he was dealing with his son, Rogelio’s father. Still, the two sat together and Francisco started to speak: “My son, there will be so much work to do in the mines tomorrow. Have I already told you about what happened to me last week? There was a really strange man who came by to ask for a job. He was very small and wore a funny hat…”