Green House Blog

Living with Early-Onset Dementia: A Story of Courage & Hope

After a career in telecommunications as well as serving as a member of the Rhode Island National Guard for over a decade, Mike Belleville was diagnosed with early onset dementia, at the age of 52. Although the news was devastating to Mike,  he has not let it define him.

Watercolor by M. Belleville
Mike Belleville has discovered a talent and love for watercolors since his diagnosis of dementia.

Since his diagnosis some seven years ago, Mike has become a strident advocate for people living with dementia. He speaks around the country in support of research and better understanding of the disease and he serves on several boards, including the Dementia Action Alliance

I first met Mike when he gave a keynote speech at our 2018 annual conference, and I have had the great pleasure of getting to know him more since then. So, when I had the opportunity to record a recap of our latest episode for Elevate Eldercare with my colleague Marla DeVries, I was delighted to get an update on his life.

True to form, Mike, who was joined by his wife Cheryl for the episode, offered his unfettered opinion about the importance of dispelling myths about people living with dementia and how the diagnosis has affected his life recently.

The Myths of Dementia

As Marla and I dive into the very compelling conversation the two had with Senior Director Susan Ryan, we have fun going a little deeper into something Mike calls the Four Myths of Dementia. And as he seeks to debunks many misperceptions about dementia, Mike himself is an example of someone who defies them: since his diagnosis he has become a very talented artist, chef, and public speaker.

In addition to the exploring the power of family and relationships, the couple explain how they found hope and tangible solutions on their journey. They also examine the need for caregiver support and respite, as well as the impact of the pandemic on routines, normalcy, and vital human connections.

We also take a look at a scene in one of his favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, from which he draws inspiration and motivation for living well with dementia.

There is so much more about Mike to learn, just as there is about dementia. Get to know him better on our latest podcast episode below:

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