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Barry and Mary call themselves a "family of three," and while Jan doesn't understand the new family configuration (nor did she consent to it) she is happy with their continued visits to her in the care facility. Current statistics indicate that 80 percent of persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease are cared for at home.
Deciding whether or not to move on into a new relationship is an intensely personal decision and I believe that, the longer we live (it is predicted that Gen Xers will live an average of 100 years), the more we will have to come to terms with these types of dilemmas. There are about 11 million non-professional Alzheimer's caregivers in the United States.
He was caring for his wife, who suffered from severe early onset dementia and was looking for a woman caring for a spouse with dementia. We are both good people who were faced with horrible situations and are trying to cope the best we can. I have no qualms about revealing my relationship with this wonderful man should the subject come up. They would be mortified if they knew their father had been seeing another woman for over two years before her death.
Whether or not the demented person is "there" is not the issue.
They are technically married, however the person they married is no longer "there" and in some cases, their spouse does not even know who they are.
Taking care of a demented spouse can be much like taking care of a toddler because the person cannot be left alone or unattended and he or she cannot necessarily be reasoned with. More and more, these healthy spouses are only too relieved to place their ill spouse in a care facility in order to get their spouse a better level of care as well as to get a respite from caretaking.
In many ways, this reflects progress, but there are situations where living longer doesn't necessarily mean living better. According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease (named for the scientist who discovered the brain abnormalities in 1906) is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
For most people with Alzheimer's, symptoms first appear after age 60.
AARP recently aired a show entitled, The Long Goodbye, about a man named Barry Peterson whose wife, Jan, had Alzheimer's.