Keeping the Love Alive: Spouse with Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease, once it is diagnosed, leaves you and your spouse with a finite amount of time. This knowledge, while devastating, can provide you with the opportunity to make your marriage or relationship stronger. Your loved one may spend years in the early stages of the disease. This is time you can use on your relationship.
Your routine will change. There might even be the possibility that friends will shy away from you, because they may be uncomfortable around your loved one. Try hard to keep all of your friendships. Explain to friends how the disease works and what parts of your lives are different now--to the best of your ability. If you or your spouse are not comfortable talking about his or her disease, talk to someone like a therapist, or a nurse, who can help you come up with a plan to communicate.
Outside of these efforts with friends, focus on your friendship together as a couple. You can still do activities together. Plan fun activities or “date nights” at least once a week. Go to the zoo, or to a museum when it’s not crowded. You can go to movies and enjoy all the sights, smells and sounds that you did when you were dating.
In your day to day living, you are going to have to take on tasks that were typically your spouse’s, such as balancing the checkbook and paying the bills, or preparing the meals. Find ways that your spouse can still contribute to the household, such as gardening or loading the dishwasher. This will help your partner feel better about himself or herself.
The sexual connection between you and your spouse may change. A person with Alzheimer’s disease experiences changes in their sex drive, due to the illness and medications. And since you are now in a caregiving role, you may feel a lack of sexual feelings towards your spouse. At times, your spouse may seem like a stranger - not the person you’ve loved for decades. These feelings are common. Try to find other ways to show your affection like hugging, snuggling, or holding hands.
As the disease progresses, you may feel like you are losing your confidant and companion in life. He or she is still your spouse. Even if you experience a day where your partner says he or she doesn’t know who you are, it’s ok. You are still connected to this person. Reach out to friends and family to help you out. Remind yourself that you love your partner and he/she loves you too. Embrace moments of humor and joy and live in the now.
Resource: Alzheimer’s Association