Apr 24, 2012

Alzheimer’s and Spousal Affairs

What are your thoughts on Alzheimer’s spouses who have affairs and justify their behavior by saying, “Well, they have Alzheimer’s and they don’t know?”

By Barbara Pursley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer’s and Spousal Affairs
Yesterday, I couldn’t help becoming intrigued by the table discussion I listened to. (I have changed names for the sake of privacy)

I visited my friend, Mary, and her mother, Alice, who has lung cancer. When I asked Alice about our mutual friend Joyce, she was quick to give me all the details of Joyce’s life. As we sat at the table, Mary was involved in painting driftwood that we had collected on the beach and I was focused on knitting a scarf, but my ears were opened for listening.

Little did I know that asking Alice about Joyce would lead into a conversation that would cause me discomfort.


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Alice continued to share about our friend Joyce when she said, “Oh, Joyce is very happy. She is dating a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s.” Then, Alice began to justify the relationship by saying, “His wife has had Alzheimer’s for several years. Plus, ‘he’ takes good care of his wife and even has a full time nurse for her at their home.” She added, “His children are very upset that ‘he’ is having an affair while their mother is home in bed suffering with Alzheimer’s.”

I listened with intensity while the hair on my neck stood up. My mother passed away from Alzheimer’s and since that time, I have been a passionate advocate. I didn’t like hearing this information, but it spurred my thinking.

Alice didn’t hold back any of her judgments. She said, “I don’t see that he is doing anything wrong. After all, his wife has Alzheimer’s and she doesn’t know.” I felt stunned into silence.

I began to think about the most common wedding vows.

“I, (bride/groom) take thee (bride/groom) to be my wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part.”
“I will cherish and respect you, comfort and encourage you, be open with you, and stay with you as long as we shall live bound by our love.”

Some people I have discussed this with believe that this kind of behavior is acceptable. They say, “Why shouldn’t the healthy spouse continue to enjoy their life?

What are your thoughts on Alzheimer’s spouses who have affairs and justify their behavior by saying, “Well, they have Alzheimer’s and they don’t know?”

Barbara Pursley was born in Galveston, Texas and is the author of EMBRACING THE MOMENT.   Barabara attended Santa Monica College, studied photography, and worked as a commercial photographer before returning to Texas to care for her mother. Barbara also taught journal writing to women in Texas rehabilitation facilities. She put her God inspired journal entries and photographs into book form in 2009.

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