Over a year ago, GreatCall partnered with actress and activist Holly Robinson Peete to learn more about her journey as a caregiver, first for her father and then for her mother, Dolores – who is also a GreatCall ambassador. Now meet Matthew Robinson, Dolores’ son, and Holly’s older brother.
Matt is the newest GreatCall ambassador from the Robinson family, and is living with Parkinson’s Disease. We recently sat down with Matt to learn a little more about his story, both as a caregiver and as someone who benefits from technology in his everyday life.
GreatCall: Tell us a bit about who you are – your passions, your history?
Matt: I have a very passionate life. My main focus has been the discovery of new genres of music – especially growing up and watching my father play by ear on the piano. That led to me starting my first band in high school called “The Barking Spiders.” I wanted to make this band the blueprint of my life, but my father, Matt Robinson, wanted me to go to college first. So, off I went to NYU for some more musical exposure. I ended up loving it and once again, Dad was right.
I went on to become VP of Capitol Records, VP of Soundtracks at Motown, and my own label imprint, Island Records. As the internet started devouring the recording industry, I pivoted to DJing. Currently, I use a software called Serato DJ Pro that recently partnered with TIDAL. With that, I have basically an unlimited playlist to draw from. My dad really inspired my love of music, which has laid out the framework for my entire life.
GreatCall: It seems like you had a very close relationship with your father. How was your relationship impacted once he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s?
Matt: Once my dad got his diagnosis, Holly took the lead on caregiving. I was there when I could, but at that point my career was taking up most of my time. However, I have some good memories of caring for my dad. My highlight as a caregiver was when I took him to see his favorite singer, Ray Charles. He danced in his seat all night, and when his medication wore off at the end of the night, I remember carrying him out to the car to get his wheelchair. An officer approached and offered to look after my dad while I retrieved the wheelchair.
For me, the toughest part of his diagnosis was when my dad lost the ability to speak. I struggled to understand him, and there were so many stories I wanted to pass on from him to my son, Max. I’m sure that if my father had half the therapies and medications that are available today, he’d still be here.
GreatCall: You have also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. How has this changed the way you live your life? What are some of your hobbies/activities that have helped you stay grounded?
Matt: I frequently notice little ticks, cramps and other pains that I remember my dad also having. That part is hard, knowing the path that this disease takes you down. Fortunately, there are new meds and therapies to ease the pain, and I have plenty of hobbies and activities to keep me agile and busy.
In addition to my music, I practice Ashtanga yoga and virtual boxing to keep me active, both of which help a ton. Of course, I enjoy hobbies that keep my mental health in good shape as well – my guilty pleasure is my golf video game. It takes me right out to the golf course, and while I’m terrible at it, it’s very enjoyable and the sounds of birds on the course relaxes me!
GreatCall: How has technology positively impacted you and your diagnosis?
Matt: I love connecting with my family, and technology has played a big role in that – both through text and over the phone, with FaceTime as a special treat. Technology just makes it so much easier to stay in touch with my family and see how they’re doing, especially my mom as she is older and lives alone.
I also just got a Fitbit Charge 3, which is helping me stay active and on the move. I love it because it stays on me like a football coach! I’ll be sitting down to snack on something unhealthy, like pizza or donuts, and out of nowhere my FitBit buzzes and reminds me I have a few more steps to finish my daily goals. And what’s crazy is that I obey!
In addition, I’ve invested in a SleepNumber bed, which has made a huge difference for me personally. In my line of work, sleep is a buried treasure; to be able to monitor and better my sleeping patterns is more than this 30-year insomnia veteran could have ever asked for.
GreatCall: You’ve been in the caregiving role. Who currently supports you as a caregiver?
Matt: My wife is my caregiver. She is so amazing and is such a big part of my life and my support system. I found out that I had Parkinson’s six months into our relationship. Six years later, she’s still here! She goes to all my support groups and charms everyone without effort.
GreatCall: What excites you about GreatCall?
Matt: I’m really looking forward to taking my experiences and sharing them through GreatCall. GreatCall has become a huge part of my family’s life, both for my sister and my mother. I’m hoping to share my story and have my experiences, both as a caregiver and as someone with Parkinson’s, resonate with others.