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Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimer's do we part?

kenny

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Today I heard FM radio talk show host Pat Morrison's call-in show about this subject.
http://www.scpr.org/programs/patt-morrison/2011/09/20/20745/alzheimersdivorcepatrobertsonmarriagebarrypeterson/
Seems an important leader recently stated if your wife/husband gets Alzheimer's disease you may divorce her/him since that disease IS like a death.

I can see both sides.
One one side is the vow, till death do we part, being taken literally . . . the body dying, and Alzheimer's being just a sickness.
I believe this is the traditional view of the marriage vow.

On the other hand some people who have experienced parents or spouses's minds literally vanish to the point they do not recognize family members say it is like only the body is alive but the person has left that body and is virtually dead and gone.
The new argument is it is morally permissible to divorce the spouse who's mind is gone and remarry.
 

Maisie

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Re: Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimers do we part?

I wouldn't divorce my husband if he got Alzheimers. I married him till his body dies. Not his mind. I made a lifetime commitment to him.
 

zoebartlett

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Re: Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimers do we part?

I can't imagine divorcing my husband if he develops Alzheimers someday, and I can't imagine him doing that to me either. My family hasn't been affected by this disease, but it's heartbreaking to watch others suffer from it and see their loved ones take care of them unconditionally.
 

kenny

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Re: Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimers do we part?

One caller into the radio show said his wife had the illness and he now lives with a new companion but will not divorce.
He was quick to add that unless YOU have a spouse with Alzheimer's you cannot possibly know how hard it is for the person to literally vanish in front of your eyes and think of you as a stranger, so you shouldn't judge people who take this route.
 

Maisie

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I wouldn't judge someone for their choices. I can only say with certainty that I wouldn't leave my husband or start a relationship with someone else.
 

mrscushion

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Re: Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimers do we part?

kenny|1316554751|3021614 said:
One caller into the radio show said his wife had the illness and he now lives with a new companion but will not divorce.
He was quick to add that unless YOU have a spouse with Alzheimer's you cannot possibly know how hard it is for the person to literally vanish in front of your eyes and think of you as a stranger, so you shouldn't judge people who take this route.
I could imagine doing this -- it would depend on circumstances I can't really even fathom now. I would not divorce and I would not stop being in charge of my husband's care.
 

Rhea

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There are lots of reasons I would separate or divorce. Being part of a couple has been a far greater challenge than I had ever imagined and I've now realised that I was naive to hypothesis about any reasons in which I may or may not consider divorce or separation. I won't know until I'm there, but hope that I never am.
 

maplefemme

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What a complicated, emotional, subject...
I have had many Alzheimer's patients and all of them vary dramatically.
I could never judge someone's choice in this matter.
I have seen extremely dangerous, violent Alzheimer's patients who are a danger to their spouses, living under the same roof is not an option, they have to go into care in a locked down unit under the care of multiple professionals.
I have also had the sweetest, most gentle Alzheimer's patients who can follow prompts and aren't a risk to themselves or others, but they can still wander off out the door when your back is turned and may need constant supervision.
Some advanced Alzheimer's patients still remember family, even if they get them confused with other people, the attachement can be there and they shut down emotionally and refuse to eat if family stop visiting, they die from "failure to thrive", that's tragic.
There are 1000 faces to this disease, it's not black and white.
I'd stay with my partner and do everything in my power to give him a quality of life, however, if I ever came down with this disease and came to the point where I didn't recognize him any more or was violent towards him, I'd want him to put me in a facility and move on with his life. He'd fight me on that, but it would be my wish...
 

maplefemme

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Re: Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimers do we part?

kenny|1316554751|3021614 said:
One caller into the radio show said his wife had the illness and he now lives with a new companion but will not divorce.
He was quick to add that unless YOU have a spouse with Alzheimer's you cannot possibly know how hard it is for the person to literally vanish in front of your eyes and think of you as a stranger, so you shouldn't judge people who take this route.
+1

I can understand his situation, did he say if he still visits her?
 

somethingshiny

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I wouldn't judge someone for taking the divorce. I honestly don't know what I would do. I'd like to say that I'd stay and help DH through anything. But, the truth is, I've known people with Alz. And I know how devastating it can be to the marriage. I've seen a woman with Alz start an affair because she didn't remember that she WAS married. I've seen a woman ina nursing home whose husband came to have lunch with her everyday. She was at her most coherent during that time. So, I guess it would boil down to "how much value am I to him?" at that point.
 

JulieN

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I don't think any traditional variation or reading of marriage vows allows you to leave someone with Alzheimer's disease. Ridiculous. Marriage is a support structure for individuals and children. One who takes marriage vows may not leave the other person uncared for (in a care facility is fine) and one may not have sex with someone else (hello, adultery.) Anything else is fine, depending on the circumstances.
 

kenny

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Re: Marriage Vow: Till Alzheimers do we part?

maplefemme|1316556764|3021647 said:
kenny|1316554751|3021614 said:
One caller into the radio show said his wife had the illness and he now lives with a new companion but will not divorce.
He was quick to add that unless YOU have a spouse with Alzheimer's you cannot possibly know how hard it is for the person to literally vanish in front of your eyes and think of you as a stranger, so you shouldn't judge people who take this route.
+1

I can understand his situation, did he say if he still visits her?
The interviewer did not ask that question.
 

chemgirl

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After working in the geriatric psychiatry department of a psych hospital I don't know what I would do if DH had this disease. I was in a lockdown unit with violent patients. Some people responded to their loved ones. Some really didn't.

There was one woman who spoke about her boyfriend every day and how they were going to get married. I remember thinking it must be such a comfort to her husband to know that she still feels that way about him. I was so wrong! She was talking about a different guy. Imagine visiting your spouse in the hospital and listening to them gush on about their ex every day. No clue who you are, but they can't wait to get married to this other person.

There was the couple that were married in their early sixties. Six months later and he's in the care facility and has no idea who she is.

Those are just two cases that really stuck out. There were also the countless guys who flashed all of the nurses and yelled sexually explicit things at any woman in the room.

I honestly don't know what I'd do if I was the spouse in any of these cases. I would want to control my husband's care, and I would still visit, but I also might try to find another partner. I know it sounds horrible, but there is very little support for the spouses of alzheimer's patients and they have to endure a lot. I can't judge.
 

natascha

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I have worked as a caregiver at a dementia home (many patients had Alzheimer). I have taken care of patients that would only make sounds, could not feed themselves, could not do anything. There were two patients that had been that severe for years. If that were to happen to me I would want my husband to divorce my shell and try to find happiness. Honestly I doubt it would come to that since I do not plan to still be alive should I face that prognosis.
 

kenny

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This might be a good opportunity to post this:


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001767/#adam_000760.disease.prognosis

SNIP:

Prevention

Although there is no proven way to prevent AD, there are some practices that may be worth incorporating into your daily routine, particularly if you have a family history of dementia. Talk to your doctor about any of these approaches, especially those that involve taking a medication or supplement.

Consume a low-fat diet.

Eat cold-water fish (like tuna, salmon, and mackerel) rich in omega-3 fatty acids, at least 2 to 3 times per week.

Reduce your intake of linoleic acid found in margarine, butter, and dairy products.

Increase antioxidants like carotenoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C by eating plenty of darkly colored fruits and vegetables.

Maintain a normal blood pressure.

Stay mentally and socially active throughout your life.

Consider taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), sulindac (Clinoril), or indomethacin (Indocin). Statin drugs, a class of medications normally used for high cholesterol, may help lower your risk of AD. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of using these medications for prevention.
 

junebug17

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I can say with absolute certainty that I would not divorce my husband or...I don't know what word to use...date? someone if he developed Alzheimers. I can't rule out placing him in a facility if he became violent or if I felt I couldn't take care of him properly - I would be elderly myself by that point. That's why I've been concerned lately that we have enough in savings to be able to afford the best possible care money can buy if this situation arises, for either one of us.
 

Haven

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I can't imagine anything that would make me leave my husband, but that is just me, and just us.

That being said, it can be very difficult to live with someone with AD, heartbreaking, even. I can understand someone else's choice to leave a spouse with AD.

My grandfather has AD. I have the sinking suspicion that my father is now exhibiting early onset symptoms.
It is a devastating disease.

My mother has a friend whose husband has very early onset AD. It's just terrible, and so sad. They're in their early 50s, and this man can no longer function on his own.

I hope none of us ever have to face this situation with our own spouses.
 

JewelFreak

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When my parents each died too young I was enraged. Now, 20 yrs later, I am thankful that neither lived long enough to face that. It was an especial dread of my mother's -- her mother was gaga for over 10 yrs, recognized no one. My grandmother had been one of the strongest, most humorous, marvelous women I ever knew & it was heartrending. Mom was terrified of being a similar burden on her children.

If it happens to me I hope DH will put me in a box & live a good life with whoever gives him happiness; I wouldn't be able to do so any longer. It's impossible to know what I would do if DH were the patient. A lot depends on the age of the healthy spouse. An in-law of my aunt's got Alzheimer's in her 40s -- in that case I'm sure she would not have wanted her husband to spend many lonely years waiting for her to die, to put it frankly.

This tragic disease thrusts tragic choices on families. As long as they are honorable, I would not be so arrogant as to judge whether another's decisions are right or wrong. Alzheimer's is one of life's hardest tests.

--- Laurie
 

makemepretty

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I believe I'm married for eternity, not till death. I would never remarry if my spouse died so it goes without saying what I would do if my hubby had alzheimers. Our kids have instructions to mix our ashes together.
 

HollyS

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Morally? You should honor your marriage vows. Illness or not. The illness in question makes no difference.

But, since most people apply situational ethics to everything they do, why does anyone need 'permission' to divorce over an illness?

I've known two people who divorced wives after head injuries changed their personalities (less mature, more emotional, etc.) I lost all respect for those men.

Their wives would have moved heaven and earth to do whatever was needed, physically and emotionally, if their husbands had been the ones to suffer disabilities. But these ladies, who were physically capable of living with their spouses and did not need extensive care, were dumped in 'homes' by loving spouses, and then summarily divorced.

Their lives were shattered, but, hey, the two Mr. Wonderfuls got to start fresh with 'undamaged' women. Ironically, they retain guardianship over their former wives . . . those poor gals will never be free of the jerks.
 

lyra

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Obviously, divorce in this situation would be a personal decision with unique circumstances. I don't hold it against anyone who makes that decision. I would want my husband to move on with his life. If it were him with AD, I would stay with him. I'm almost 50 though, with grown children, so this isn't such a difficult choice. He would be institutionalized at some point, and I know he wouldn't know me, but I'd still be there for him.
 

VRBeauty

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I'm no fan of Pat Robertson, and it's possible I'm mis-interpreting what he said, but I took his comments to indicate that he saw divorce as being less objectionable than adultery, should the healthy spouse decide to seek companionship outside of the marriage.

I've known people who have done both - stuck with their spouses until the spouse died (and beyond), or sought another companion - although they did continue to visit and care for the spouse with alzheimer's. In the latter case, friends and family did not necessarily condem the "wayward" spouse. Like Kenny, I can see both sides.
 

LGK

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Addy|1316555745|3021626 said:
There are lots of reasons I would separate or divorce. Being part of a couple has been a far greater challenge than I had ever imagined and I've now realised that I was naive to hypothesis about any reasons in which I may or may not consider divorce or separation. I won't know until I'm there, but hope that I never am.
Yeah. For real. You can easily think you know what you would or wouldn't do, but... until you have to actually live through something? No way to know for certain how you'll react or what the actual circumstances dictate. :(sad
 

centralsquare

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I think a good question to ask to see how you'd respond is: "What would you do if your SO were on life support (in a coma, etc)?"

I've had family members die from cancer, stroke and AD. AD was the worst by far because I was essentially dealing with someone who was in a coma. No realization of who I was, where he was. He was physically capable, however. So, he was tied to a chair and wore a diaper. He played with a toy doll thinking it was a baby. When I'd walk in his room, he'd ask me if I could polish his shoes not realizing who I was. It was as if he were in a coma...no ability to interact.

I would never turn my back on my DH if he had AD. If there were select times when he was lucid, I'd stay with him. But, I'm not sure I would if he ended up completely not recognizing me and it went on for many, many years. I would visit and make sure he got the best care. But, if there was no hope he'd ever have moments of clarity, I may consider divorce.

I hope that, if I were in that situation, that DH divorce me. I don't want him seeing me like that. I'd rather he have the memories of me the way I was and that he moves on.
 

Imdanny

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If they have a head injury and are in a coma? If they have a spinal injury and are parlayed from the neck down? Elderly spouse with dementia?

Well, putting aside a "marriage vow," for a minute, a lifetime commitment to someone does not include leaving them or breaking your vows because they have a medical condition.

Period.

IMO.

Other people are free to have a different opinion (duh) but in my opinion this notion is absurd. I wish people would realize that behind any illness (any illness) the person is "still there." That is what I believe. Their mind didn't die. If it did, you would know it, because they would be dead. I don't understand why people don't see this. I think leaving someone in such a situation would be selfish and profoundly wrong.
 

slg47

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Imdanny|1316581313|3021951 said:
If they have a head injury and are in a coma? If they have a spinal injury and are parlayed from the neck down? Elderly spouse with dementia?

Well, putting aside a "marriage vow," for a minute, a lifetime commitment to someone does not include leaving them or breaking your vows because they have a medical condition.

Period.

IMO.

Other people are free to have a different opinion (duh) but in my opinion this notion is absurd. I wish people would realize that behind any illness (any illness) the person is "still there." That is what I believe. Their mind didn't die. If it did, you would know it, because they would be dead. I don't understand why people don't see this. I think leaving someone in such a situation would be selfish and profoundly wrong.
I agree.
 

Arkteia

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I can not judge anyone but in real life I have seen many spouses who were very supportive of their spouses with Alzheimer's and stood by them. Naturally, it helped the afflicted spouses to stay functional for a longer time. It is not true that they do not recognize anyone, they do recognize people who they know well or at least feel that someone who is familiar is close to them. They get visibly less anxious when their spouse or children approach them, perhaps they can not put it in words any longer but they feel it. My husband's father took care of his wife who developed Alzheimer's at an early age, actually preferred to keep her in the house and not to send to a nursing home, although it was hard. He never thought of divorcing her.

Some people have strong sense of duty and commitment, some do not.
 

chemgirl

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I used to deal with the most extreme cases, so I think that's coloring my opinion. Those in lockdown at the psychiatric hospital were extremely violent, self-harmed, or were sexually agressive (or a combination). People would hear about my job and ask me if it was like the Notebook, like that was the worst scenario they could think of. That movie is such a joke. Lucidity of any kind is beyond these families wildest dreams.

As an example of an extreme case, there was a woman who would scream the same nonsense word over and over again while pulling on her hair (when she wasn't restrained). Sometimes she would pull so hard she would pull off pieces of scalp and nearly bled to death several times while in her family's care. She never reacted to family and was just as likely to self-harm in their presence as not. She had to be force fed and was strapped down most of the time. She was like that for years. She was gone. Her mind wasn't there anymore. Her brain had degenerated to the point where it was functioning on a level similar to an animal's (I was doing research using fMRI). Her family called it worse than death.

I honestly don't know what I'd do if that was my spouse. I certainly wouldn't blame her spouse if he found companionship with somebody else. I just feel strongly that we can't judge without being in that situation.
 

marymm

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My father had early onset dementia (early 50s) and died of Alzheimer's-related illness at 66 in 2000.

Today there are more drugs and treatment options, and more awareness of the disease - I would urge anyone who believes someone they care about is showing symptoms of early onset dementia to take action so that person receives medical screening for dementia - certain medications can "arrest" the disease though not halt it - early treatment may preserve that person's present abilities and skills and serve to postpone further deterioration - though not every dementia patient responds to these types of drugs and some may have existing conditions such that drugs/treatment options are more limited.

I would not judge anyone dealing with this illness - my husband and I have made a pact to honor our vows until death do us part and our eyes are wide open as to what that might mean.
 

ladypirate

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As much as I dislike Pat Robertson (who made the original comment), he wasn't encouraging people to get divorced if their spouse gets alzheimers. He was apparently speaking about someone he knew whose wife had the disease. The man still went and visited her and took care of her but had started seeing another woman. What Pat Robertson said was that if he was going to be seeing someone else, he should divorce his first wife so that it wasn't adulterous. His rationalization for condoning the divorce was that since the man's spouse didn't know who he was anymore, it was as though his wife was no longer there.

I don't agree with him regarding the divorce, but I don't have a problem with the man seeing someone else. If I had alzheimers or advanced dementia I would hope that DH would be able to find companionship with someone else.
 
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