BOSTON (CBS) – Each month, WBZ Cares highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community.
This month, WBZ Cares profiles the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts and New Hampshire Chapter. It is one of over 70 Alzheimer’s Association chapters serving communities across the country providing care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The organization is committed to accelerating the progress of new treatments, preventions and ultimately a cure.
Michael Belleville knew something was very wrong in 2013, when his occasional forgetfulness turned into something much worse.
“I got lost coming home from work, pulled into somebody else’s driveway,” he said. Doctors diagnosed him with early onset dementia at the age of 52.
“I am not ashamed to tell people that I went into a deep depression, kind of hiding underneath a rock,” he said.
Now 56 years old, Michael can’t drive anymore and is retired.
He stays at home while his wife goes to work.
“I see hallucinations frequently,” he said. “When I am alone in the house, I see somebody else walking around. I can tell when I am having a hallucination and when I’m outside, it’s hard to tell if what I am seeing all the time is reality or is it a hallucination.”
A tearful Cheryl Belleville says it’s very tough being away from her husband all day.
“This is the prime of his life, and I can’t be there to share it with him every day 40 hours a week I have to be somewhere else,” she said.
According to Michael after his diagnosis, disappointingly, his circle of friends got a lot smaller.
“The message I’d want to get out to people is, they’re still your friends. They’re still the same person they used to be they just have different challenges,” he said.
“To not hear from them, in the way that you thought that you would, is a little disheartening. I’ve got a bunch of fishing poles sitting in the corner, I’d love to go fishing with somebody, I don’t have anybody there.”
Belleville’s saving grace, besides his wife, three kids, and five grandchildren has been the Alzheimer’s Association.
“They saved my life. Because of the support groups that I have attended, people I’ve met and the programs and services they offer, they made me realize, I still have a life to live. I can still learn. I can still do the things I enjoy doing. Most importantly I still have a voice,” he said.
When she is not working, Cheryl and Michael try to get out and cross things off their bucket list, while they still can.
“One of my favorite’s movies is “Shawshank Redemption” and there is a line that Morgan Freeman repeats he says ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’ and I have chosen to get busy living.”