How John and I Thrive While Living with His Dementia


Almost two years into my husband John’s diagnosis of dementia, likely Alzheimer’s, our lives are richer and happier, and some aspects of his dementia have improved.

How could that be when even early-stage dementia can be marked by confusion and the heartbreaking loss of shared memories and dreams? 

How could that be when my workload steadily increases to handle daily tasks he can no longer do?

And how could that be when neither of us is a smile-away-the-tears, always think positive type?

We’re happier because of commitments we made long ago: 

    • Make the most of whatever life we’ve still got together. 
    • Be grateful for what we’ve got, then research and work for what we need or want. 
    • Bless ourselves and our work by aiming always to see each other as we are (not how we wish or fear the other to be); call forth the best for each other; and do the best we can for each other and ourselves.

We’re grateful for our well-coordinated medical team at Kaiser Oakland which includes a neurologist who is also an osteopath, our two primary care doctors, Kaiser’s physical therapy department, and the sleep center.

We also depend on a growing wealth of non-medical body, mind, creative, and spiritual resources. Recently, we joined an online pilot group for people living with dementia and their caregivers based on Mindfulness Meditation and Feldenkrais Somatic Exercises

In addition, while attending a Dementia Action Alliance Meeting, we learned how Tai chi can support memory and cognitive issues. Starting this week, low-cost in-person classes are re-opening in our area, and that’s probably true also for Tai chi classes at senior centers and other venues elsewhere. 

Why is this so exciting to us? According to the US National Library of Medicine, Tai chi can help improve “global cognitive functions, visuospatial skills, semantic memory, verbal learning/memory, and self-perception of memory” in people with early stage dementia. 

Every week we participate in arts and spiritual practices that enrich our memory, cognition and joy of life, especially improvisational theater, drawing, daily gratitude practices, and constantly finding ways to serve others.

Nothing makes me happier than finding and sharing innovations and connections to help others handle tough problems and build heartfelt dreams.

Here are some topics we will cover in Dementia Wisdom in the coming months: 

  • Attitudes, beliefs, and practices that help us and others thrive while living with or caregiving dementia.
  • Breaking, rarely reported news from medical, creative, and other fields.
  • Connections to people, organizations, and movements that can inspire and effectively support you to overcome your unique memory and cognitive challenges.
  • How the arts can support and delight you, even if you’re sure you have no creative talents.
  • How to erase stigma or shame about dementia with help from amazing allies.
  • How to get help when you can’t afford it.
  • How to trade the belief that dementia dooms you to a tragic and hopeless life for a new vision that we can help each other thrive as well and as long as possible.

John Sullivan’s Dementia Commitment and Blessing

I have no idea how long I have to live,
how long I can recognize people I love,
or how long I can do other things that matter to me. 

I will not worry about that. 
Instead, I commit to giving my best to every moment, 
to live more purposefully and joyously for as long as is possible.

May you also find and live your best vision for thriving
for the rest of your life –whatever your challenges or dreams.


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Want my focused attention and creativity to help you thrive with your memory and cognitive issues?   Whether you are a person living with dementia, a care partner, or a specialist in the field, I’d love to share the benefits of my decades as a self-help writer and researcher, trouble shooter, spiritual teacher, paralegal, and now care partner the past 13 years.  For a free consult, call me at call 510-530-0284 or write Best to you, Pat Sullivan

All contents are copyright 2021 by Pat McHenry Sullivan, all rights reserved.

Photo by our late friend Pakvillai Sudhaswin. Though taken before John’s journey with dementia began, it beautifully shows how we experience life now!  

This newsletter is intended for inspiration and information only, not to diagnose or treat any type of illness or malady.  Please consult with your healthcare providers before applying any of the resources that are reported here.