Affairs, rather real or imagined wreck havoc with the pysche of an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

 October 19, 2012 — I have read that it isn’t unusual for older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s in the earlier stages to forget their spouse – especially if they live in a care facility with a lot of new people with whom they become acquainted. The Alzheimer’s affair can be tragic to the well spouse, or it can be a source of happiness for someone with Alzheimer’s searching for love and companionship in a confusing world.

 “He met someone,” a broken-hearted healthy wife will say to a friend.  In this case she has lost her husband twice: to Alzheimer’s and then to another woman. The Alzheimer’s World is not our world even though we have one foot in the door nearly all of the time.  Our loved ones can become strangers to us, and us to them as they embrace their new life in an institution.  Their world with us can vanish and what remains for them is what is readily available which might be the man or woman in the next room.  

When her husband with Alzheimer’s became involved with a woman he met in the facility where he resided,  former Associate Justice, Sandra Day O’Conner, following a painful period of adjustment, responded she was relieved because her husband had found some happiness.

At that point in time there is really nothing for the wife or husband and family to do than allow what has happened to just continue.  Changing the mind of an AD patient is next to impossible.  The connecting link to the well spouse is gone. Besides, the happiness of the AD spouse is what is paramount.  Furthermore, living and caring in an Alzheimer’s world is often surreal and often feels like make-believe and roll playing. What happens to not only the patient, but for the spouse as well can seem like a dream — or worse — a nightmare. 


I felt the broken heart of the healthy wife the other night – not in my real world nor was it in Ken’s Alzheimer’s world.  It all took place in the subconscious of my own mind – in the world of dreams.

I seldom remember dreams, but this one was so vivid and filled with such deep emotion and pain I could have been wide awake.  Ken was well in my dream, and we had moved to a luxurious retirement hotel where we lived in a beautiful suite of rooms.  However, I was alone most of the time wondering where Ken was and why he was gone for such a long while.  Then I saw the two of them: Ken and another woman.  They were both beautifully dressed and appeared to be on a date. 

He had taken her to the lobby area of the facility where they entered into the ballroom for dinner and dancing; an every evening event.  Between courses he asked her to dance and they glided across the floor just as Ken and I had done so many years ago at the Claremont high in the hills of Berkeley, California.  I don’t recall feeling jealous in my reverie; just unbearable pain wondering why he had left me. 


The whole dream scenario was very convenient because the other woman lived down the hall in her own suite of rooms where Ken stayed most of the time.  Interesting, though, he did come to visit me every so often although we did not speak – there was no conversation.  I never asked why he left, was he coming back, nor did I become angry about his affair.  Instead, my dream friends, all without faces, were helping me get even – or get him back – whichever I wanted most.

They arranged dates for me with an array of very good looking men who were my age:  very social, very charismatic and charming.  I felt good as we danced between courses of our dinner in the same ballroom as Ken and his other woman.  I could see him looking at me instead of her; and what I saw in his eyes was the same as during our early courting when the look said, “I love you.”

Another handsome friend took me sailing.  Ken and his woman were waiting in our suite when I returned, and I shared the photos taken earlier.  Was I reclaiming my husband from this other woman?  She sat there smiling, but in her eyes I could read sadness.  Was it all over between the two of them?  Was he coming home to me?  No time for chit chat or explain about the photos, I had to rush; my date was waiting for me in the lobby. 


I had overslept by nearly an hour and Ben was waiting for me to help with Ken’s morning routine.  Quickly I tossed on my robe and slippers and together we took care of his needs.  I apologized to Ben for keeping him waiting and this new day was nearly half over. Yes, a new day, but much the same as yesterday.   I had a long list of chores to finish and errands to run.  Silly dream I thought.


 Not being a dream expert I would have no idea how to analyze the meaning.  Yet, I wonder why Ken never spoke with me in my dream – never explained – but his eyes said, “I love you.”  Was the other woman not a woman at all, but a representation of Alzheimer’s?  Who knows?  I do remember, though, the pain I felt. Even thought it was only a dream the pain was real: rejection, feeling alone — excluded from his life — and being filled with incredible heartbreak.  In the real world of daylight and reality Alzheimer’s, at times, fills me with those same feelings.  Even if I had a life dotted with fun dates I would always be thinking of Ken knowing that what I wanted most in all of these mixed-up worlds is to have my husband back.  In reality, though, I know with certainty that Alzheimer’s is a greedy rival, never allowing what has been taken to be returned.




Originally posted 2012-10-20 15:38:00.


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