Life Does Not End with a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

Before the Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

When Dennis Dulniak was my guest on the Island Treasures podcast, I was struck by his wisdom, compassion and insight.  Dennis had been the primary caregiver for his wife, Nancy. He described his caregiving journey so clearly in the podcast episode “Life Does Not End with a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s”. In fact I found I was not just listening to what he was saying but I was learning from what he was saying.  Dennis is an engaging speaker and it came as no surprise to hear that he had been in the field of higher education for 40 years.

At the time of the podcast recording, Dennis and Nancy had been married for 47 years.  Before Nancy’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, they had an active social life. They enjoyed cruising, live theater, musical and attending sporting events together.  That was until it became apparent that noise levels and crowds were overwhelming for Nancy.  However, Dennis and Nancy were not willing to give up on their social life and they found ways to adapt to their new normal. 

The Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

When Nancy could no longer perform her highly detailed tasks at work it seemed natural for her to stop working and so she retired. It was after she retired that she received the diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Dennis and Nancy were shocked to find out that if she been diagnosed while she was still working, she may have been eligible for long-term disability benefits. 

Instead of being upset about missing this opportunity for themselves, they used their experience as a teachable opportunity.  They sought to inform others to get tested while still working. Dennis stresses the importance for those experiencing memory loss or MCI to start by having a thorough medical examination. As memory loss does not automatically mean a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia; and it is best to rule out other possible causes before undergoing intensive cognitive testing. After Nancy’s diagnosis she participated in 8 medical trials. She did this for science research as well as possibly being of benefit to Nancy.

Topics of Interest

As we continued chatting, Dennis further shared information on:

All of which he describes so well in the podcast episode.


Dennis also spoke about the importance for self-care.  His preferred self-care activities included participating in service clubs and support groups. He both attended and now facilitates support groups. He found the services of a caregiving consultant beneficial and he accessed other resources including books. Two of the books he found especially helpful are:

  1. UnMasking Alzheimer’s: the Memories Behind the Masks – by Dr. Cynthia Huling Hummel, and
  2. Jan’s Story: Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer’s by Barry Petersen.

The Hardest Decision

When it became too difficult for Nancy to remain at home, Dennis agonized over the decision to have her go into care. He knew it was necessary and yet it was what Dennis called the hardest decision in their marriage. Sadly this anguish is shared by many caregivers facing this transition, and so I created this video to help caregivers who may be about to make their “Hardest Decision”.

Man wearing clear face mask

After the podcast

Dennis continued to be there for Nancy until her passing in 2021.

When wearing masks was mandatory during the pandemic, he found a way to continue to communicate effectively – again adapting to circumstances. He wore a clear face mask like the one he is wearing in this picture. These masks are available through the Central Florida Lions Hearing Program (email  

Dennis continues to share his message of hope, along with his wisdom and insight to help keep us all informed. As being informed leads to confidence which leads to being an effective advocate for your loved one.  Remember, life does not have to end with a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tracy Crump

    What an interesting story. The spouses of Alzheimer’s victims suffer right along with them. So interesting about the clear masks.

    1. Alison van Schie

      Hi Tracy, thanks for your comment. You are 100% correct as the diagnosis impacts both the loved one with dementia and their care partner. And yes, the masks were a great idea. They really helped improve communication for those who needed to see the mouth move (or read lips) to better understand, during the masking-up-phase of the pandemic.

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