Awareness Month 2024: Don

Meet a Yukoner sharing their story as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month this year.

2024AAM Don image

A former lecturer and engineer whose work with BBC Television earned him recognition as one of the “100 Voices that Made the BBC,” Don Cheeseman had an adventurous and fulfilling career. He felt a significant loss when he started to notice cognitive and behavioural changes, having made a living through teaching, consulting and lecturing. 

Don – a retiree who now resides in Whitehorse – is living with dementia. This January, he’s sharing his story as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as the support services available to Yukoners from the Alzheimer Society of B.C. By sharing his story, Don hopes to offer a glimpse into the reality of the disease. 

Don's dementia journey began by receiving a postcard, inviting him to participate in a research study program from the CAN-THUMBS UP Brain Health Support Program. Before the study, he already sensed something different about himself, particularly his memory and understanding of spoken words. 

"I can only talk about what I remember, but if I were asked your name in 10 minutes, I wouldn't remember it," says Don. Despite the challenges caused by symptoms, Don has been learning a lot after enrolling in the research study program, which is funded by the Alzheimer Society Research Program.  

For Don and many others living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, there are good days and bad days. "I noticed that on some days I could do some of the tests they gave me very well. And some days I was hopeless," explains Don. "I learned there were things I could improve by changing the way I lived and things I could not affect or improve." 

When Don was an educator, he had a notice directly above his desk reading, "Make the complicated, simple!" Keeping things simple has been one of the ways Don has coped with his situation. Strategies like automating the payment of many bills have helped with simplifying his daily routine. 

Don carries an unyielding attitude, with weekly activities and brain health education. "I'm still learning all kinds of things and I'm as curious as I ever was. But I now learn a lot slower." 

Though Don finds himself losing the initiative to step out of the house, he still puts a tremendous effort into taking part in mentally stimulating social activities. When he stays home, he runs a weekly chat group for senior men located across Canada via Zoom and offers help with friends’ computer problems. Don finds joy in being a sous chef and the warm water on his hand while he washes dishes, while his wife is the main chef and checks his work. He is also working to capture his family history and adventures in a printable format before they are lost. He can still delve into the art of storytelling, narrating adventures that his family encountered working around the globe, from Zambia to Estonia to Korea, to name a few. His son also lives in the Yukon and plays a pivotal role in offering care and support to Don. 

Each person living with dementia has their own unique journey; they may experience different symptoms or challenges. It's crucial to keep spreading awareness about dementia, growing our understanding of brain health and exploring ways to reduce the risks associated with the disease. If you're concerned about dementia or experiencing related symptoms, speak with your health-care provider about next steps. If you are looking for tips or strategies or a supportive ear to relieve the stress of caregiving, reach out to the First Link Yukon Dementia Helpline – they're here to help. 

Learn more about the campaign

Want to learn more? Read some of the other stories being shared throughout the month at