Memory mat sparks resident conversations

A northeastern Ohio teen has created a placemat with a purpose, helping caregivers and families to have better conversations with residents, especially those with dementia.

Ava Alexandra Thomas, a high school student at Gilmour Academy in Cleveland, designed the Memory Mat as part placemat, part scrapbook. The laminated do-it-yourself mat contains photos, quotes and information about a resident’s hobbies, careers, military service and family, providing new conversational topics at a glance.

Ava Thomas shows the Memory Mat she made for her grandfather. Photo: WKYC

Thomas says the product was inspired by her grandfather’s visit to a rehabilitation and skilled nursing facility following surgery, where caregivers struggled to engage with him. “They wanted to have conversations with him, but they couldn’t find anything to talk about other than the weather,” Thomas told WKYC TV in an interview. “I wanted to create a product that would allow patients, families and caregivers to have meaningful conversations.”

The mats also serve as memory cues for residents on their family members, favorite foods and past jobs. “These memory joggers stimulate episodic memory—the recollection of autobiographical events that connect times, people, places and emotions,” Thomas adds.

The mat project was the winner of the quality of life category at Accelerate 2017, a northeastern Ohio civic innovation competition. Thomas used her $2,000 finalist prize to purchase an extra-wide lamination machine to make more Memory Mats, which are now in use at several Ohio nursing homes.

Watch Thomas’ interview on YouTube.


Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia