Today’s news created a buzz in our office about the Reverend Pat Robertson’s televised comments about divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s while the person with Alzheimer’s was still living and calling the disease “a kind of living death.” Not being a viewer of his program, I was at first perplexed as to why he felt the need to comment on this, but on reading the transcript, he was asked the question and to his credit, he suggested they ask an “ethicist besides me.”
In my 24 years of working with the Alzheimer’s Association, I just haven’t seen this issue. I’ve seen divorced spouses return to the relationship to provide care. I’ve had spouses tell me they almost divorced because they didn’t recognize the early signs and mistook them for trouble in the relationship. I’ve known divorce to be discussed in the context of preserving assets as long term care and MediCal loomed (there are better options). I’ve know many people to developed close relationships with friends who helped the well spouse get through the journey and who married after the person with dementia died.
However, the story raises issues as to the challenges of maintaining spousal relations as Alzheimer’s inevitably progresses, why and how being a spouse caregiver has special challenges and why or if actions that would be unacceptable otherwise are viewed differently when one partner is cognitively impaired and will only continue to decline. Continue reading “Azheimer’s a “living death?” A response to Pat Robertson” »