Alzheimers. Follow up about dating

We raised this question previosuly: is it OK for Diane to have a relationship with another man while her spouse is imprisoned with late-stage Alzheimer's.

In that article, Diane had said: "I was 49; my husband was 62 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I took care of him for eight years until I was longer physically or emotionally able. Since then, he has been in nursing homes and has had the disease for 13 years.

"We have been married 38 years and I have always been a devoted, loyal and loving mother and wife. I see him regularly but he doesn't know me or our children, nor has he for a very long time."

As always, our members responded with intelligent, objective, and heart-felt comments. It's interesting that as many men responded as women, which is rare. Here is what nine of our members said:

Shirley, "This is a young woman (62) married to a much older man (75)--a warning to all women--and she is not harming her sick husband. She must permit herself to get on with her life, for there will be no other rescue for her. Her husband will never recover--her life goes on.

"She is not lying or deceiving anyone and has a right to explore possibilities in her life. Go for it. I'd call this woman's trial by fire a living death. She needs to rescue herself to stay among the living.

Gregory, "I don't think she has done anything wrong. Justice O'Connor had to deal with the reverse situation. Her husband found a 'friend' while at the nursing home. She delighted in the fact that he had someone to be with."

Carol, "If we can find happiness after a lot of years struggling and going through the hardship of caring for someone, why not? I don't regret any of the time and years I spent with my spouse. We had a wonderful 43 years together. Then he passed away after 12 years of prostate and bone cancer.

"I met a wonderful someone a year later. We only had 3 years together and he passed away after suffering with ALS for 1 and 1/2 years. I don't regret taking care of him either. These experiences helped me cherish the time I can spend and enjoy someone. We all have so much to offer each other if we only have the chance to try it. Don't let that chance slip away."

Jon, "Considering that there really is no marriage anymore and her spouse is apparently unable to comprehend what is going on, a relationship is within reason."

Cydne, "She must make her own decision about what is right for her. If she is concerned about what other people think, her answer is no. I don't worry about what society or others think about my decisions for my life. That is why I am so happy."

William, "Go on with her life. This is not him, only a shell of what once was the person she knew. He has no quality of what is considered a life and for her to not do anything to get back hers, would only double the negative aspects of that life."

Mary, "Her situation, unfortunately, is representative of a growing problem in our society. She has needs emotionally, too. She needs support; I feel great compassion for her. Whatever she chooses, I recommend she keep it private. There will always be some holier than thou, judgmental busybody who will make her life (more) miserable with criticism and condemnation."

George, "Alzheimer's is a vicious disease. The dementia associated with it is irreversible, therefore, it's permanent. A victim can linger for years. Spouses are just as 'imprisoned' as the patients.

"In physical appearance, it's the same person, just like the photographs in the album - but in reality, it's not the one who was loved and loved in return. The spouse might just as well already be widowed.

"We all seek and need the warmth of human companionship, and in its absence we even reach out to our household pets (if any) for comfort. The depth of the unhappiness in huge.

"If there is another person to whom a spouse can reach out--it's not cheating or being unfaithful."

Jan, "I once had the opportunity to date someone who was in Diane's situation. I passed it up thinking it was wrong. He was a great guy. I regret not exploring where that might have gone. He told me that when his wife was still capable, she urged him to find someone else. He remained married to her so she could use his health insurance. I don't think it would be wrong for Diane to have a relationship."

Update from Tom: While preparing this week's newsletter, I contacted Diane. Here is what she wrote, "My husband of 38 ½ years passed away from Alzheimer's on December 13. I let my 'friend' know. He has not responded."

At least Diane is freed from the prison she was in for years. She is now a member of our group. She has already made a valuable contribution by sharing her story.

Website for the widowed community

I wanted to mention a website that I think can be very helpful to anybody who has been widowed, male or female. There is no cost. I personally know Laurie-Ann Weis and respect the service she provides to widowed people. You might email her and ask to be added to the mailing list of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation newsletter. Follow this link: Laurie-Ann Weis Website

© 2010, Tom Blake

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Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and in Chicago. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His second book is Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do. His latest book is titled How 50 Couples Found Love after 50. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com or E-Mail.

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