Island Treasures: Life Does Not End with a Diagnosis of Alzheimer's

Alison van Schie

Island Treasures: Life Does Not End with a Diagnosis of Alzheimer's

Alison van Schie

What struck me as I was chatting with Dennis Dulniak during Island Treasures’ podcast, “Life Does not end with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s” was his wisdom and insight. He explained things so clearly that I found myself not just listening to what he was saying but learning from what he was saying. He is an engaging speaker and it came as no surprise that he had been in the field of higher education for 40 years.

He and Nancy have been married for 47 years. Before Nancy’s diagnosis, they had an active social life enjoying cruising, live theatre, musical and sporting events together until it became apparent that the noise and crowds were no longer pleasant for Nancy. Dennis was not willing to give up on their social life and found ways to adapt to a new normal. He was adamant that, "life would not end with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s."

When Nancy could no longer perform her highly detailed tasks at work, it seemed a natural time for her to retire. It was after she retired that she was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). They were shocked to find out that had she been diagnosed before retiring, she may have been eligible for long-term disability benefits. Instead of being upset about missing this opportunity for themselves, Dennis uses their experience to inform others to get tested before leaving their career. He stresses the importance of your friend or family member who may be experiencing memory loss or cognitive difficulties to have a thorough examination by their general practitioner first. Memory loss does not automatically mean a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it is best to rule out other possible causes before intensive cognitive testing. Nancy participated in eight medical trials for science research.

In this episode, Dennis I talk about:

  • The ApoE-4.
  • Brain fitness programming.
  • Dementia-friendly dining.
  • The use of clear face masks, particularly during this time of Covid-19, around folks with dementia or Alzheimer’s. (Email centralfloridalionshearing@gmail.com for more information.)

Dennis recognizes the importance for self-care, which for him comes through his participation in service clubs, support groups (both attending and facilitating), engaging with a certified caregiving consultant, and accessing resources including the two books he mentioned: 1) UnMasking Alzheimer’s: The Memories Behind the Masks by Dr. Cynthia Huling Hummel, and 2) Barry Petersen’s book, Jan’s Story: Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer’s.

Dennis describes how he anguished over the decision to have Nancy enter care and the difficulties of being apart, especially as Nancy has, as of the recording date, tested positive for Covid-19. Dennis continues to be there for her, lovingly, and his wisdom and insight is there for those of us who want to learn from him. Remember: Being informed leads to confidence which leads to being an effective advocate for your loved one. I would like to thank Dennis for sharing his insights and for both his and Nancy’s selfless approach to helping others from what they have experienced and their lessons learned.

About Island Treasures

As caregivers tell their stories they will share encouragement and insights to the listeners who may be in the midst of their own caregiving journey. It is a source of wisdom and empowerment so caregivers do not feel they are alone.

About the Contributor

Alison van Schie lives in Canada and is a caregiver consultant. She works primarily with seniors and caregivers of loved ones who have dementia. Alison has a social work degree and worked as a social worker for over 25 years. The past five years, however, she found her niche working with seniors and quickly learned there was gap in resources and supports for caregivers, which led her to become a caregiver consultant and starting her own business, Alongside Caregiver Consulting.