When married people with dementia begin new relationships


Author offers advice on handling this situation

It’s a common occurrence. A person with dementia moves into a long-term care home, while their spouse, who may have cared for them for years, remains at home. But once in their new environment, the long-term care resident forgets they are married – and begins a relationship with another resident.

This situation, understandably, creates a conundrum for the long-term care resident’s spouse.

“If this happens to you it will probably be one of the most painful situations you will ever face,” writes author Marie Marley in a recent Huffington Post blog. “It’s right up there with your loved one not recognizing you anymore and with engaging hospice care near the end of their life.”

Marley, the award-winning author of the book Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy, has first-hand experience with this. Ed, her partner of 30 years, had developed dementia and moved into a long-term care home.

While living in the home, Marley writes that Ed “flirted shamelessly with nearly every staff person in the place.”

While the natural instinct was for her to become upset with this change in Ed, Marley looked at the situation with a different approach.

“I was happy he was enjoying himself so much,” she writes.

Marley writes that the spouses of people with dementia might see their loved one act in ways they never had before they became cognitively impaired. When this happens, the spouse always needs to remember that it’s the dementia that’s causing the person to act this way, she says.

Finally, Marley offers advice to people who have a spouse with dementia who has pursued a relationship with another person in a long-term care home.

“If you find yourself in this situation you may not be able to accept it or it may take months or even years to do so. And that’s certainly understandable,” she writes. “But if you can go with the flow and be happy that your spouse is happy you will be far less stressed and more contented with your spouse and his or her new-found pleasure.

“Ultimately, it will dramatically improve your quality of life.”

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