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The Pain & Possibility of Dementia: Making Space for Emotional Growth

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Dementia is emotional for everyone: those who live with it, those who walk side by side with it, and those who simply worry about the future. The creative challenge is how to move “around-and-about” our fears of “losing our minds,” losing control, and not being able to “manage” the unmanageable – so as to open the door for new and more growth-filled emotional performances.

Join us for a conversation with dementia activists (people living with dementia, care partners, health and mental health professionals) that explores the fears, anxieties, hopes, sadness, dreams, and (even) relief of dementia. What can we discover about making space for emotional growth with everything that dementia – and life – hands us?


Helen Abel is a life performance coach who has practiced, and helped develop, the social therapeutic approach for over four decades. She co-leads short term groups on “Creating New Performances of Dementia, Memory Loss, and Growing Older”. Helen believes that she can most effectively help people develop by supporting them to use their capacity to create, perform and play at any age and in any life circumstance.

Mike and Cheryl Belleville have been happily married for 40 years and have three children and six grandchildren. Mike was diagnosed with younger Onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 52 and has been an active advocate with his local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts/NH chapter. His diagnosis was changed to Lewy Body Dementia with parkinsonism two years later and he has been very active with the Lewy Body Dementia Association and an Advisory Council member of the Dementia Action Alliance. Cheryl works as an administrative assistant for a nonprofit organization specializing in adults with developmental disabilities. She has worked in the field – including direct care of individuals – for over 20 years.

Mary Fridley is on the faculty at the East Side Institute in NYC and practiced social therapy for 12 years. Mary is co-creator and leader of The Joy of Dementia (You Gotta Be Kidding!) and coordinator of Reimaging Dementia: A Creative Coalition for Justice. She is author or co-author of several articles and chapters on the Joy of Dementia, including a chapter that appears in The Applied Improvisation Mindset published in August 2021, and a guest blogger for

Susan Massad is a retired physician with 51 years of practice and teaching in internal medicine, co-creator and leader of The Joy of Dementia (You Gotta Be Kidding!) and a founding member of Reimagining Dementia: A Creative Coalition for Justice. An Institute faculty member, she is co-author of several articles on the Joy of Dementia, including a chapter that appears in The Applied Improvisation Mindset published in August 2021.

Eileen Moncoeur is a long-term practitioner of social therapeutics who has dedicated her life to human development and community building. She co-leads short-term groups on “Creating New Performances of Dementia, Memory Loss, and Growing Older” and is studying with the Institute to become a Life Performance Coach. She is also a non-profit leader with more than 23 years experience.

Kate White is an activist, carer, researcher and psychotherapist. After her partner John (1934-2021) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease eleven years ago, Kate began to recognize how attachment theory might be applied to increase understanding between people with dementia and their caregivers and provide new ways for them to support, and connect with, each other.


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