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Monday, February 3, 2014

Love and Dementia in the Month of Valentines February 3, 2014

Daniel Jones, the editor of the column in the NY Times Sunday Styles section that I read first every week has written a book "Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (with the help of 50,000 strangers.)"

He speaks of the young who are always seeking love and the long-time married who are concerned with getting the love back into their relationships. He talks about the three groups of married people who try to get back the passion, excitement and attention they experienced as new lovers and concludes that some seek satisfaction outside marriage, some "quash" their feelings and are "appreciatively resigned" to accepting life, marriage and their families as they are, counting their blessings every morning and some who work very hard to restore the old flame only for all to discover that "good enough" is great!

He cites Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon's wife and an excellent writer on her own, who asserts publicly that she puts her relationship with her husband above that of her children and that the couple has maintained the excitement, attention and passion of their long relationship. She was met with jeers and hostility when she spoke on an "Oprah" show!!

So what happens to love when we have great, good, or even good-enough marriages and one spouse develops dementia, Alzheimer's disease,  fromto-temporal dementia or Parkinson's dementia???

The healthy spouse first genuinely cares for the less able partner, providing all the love the couple once shared and sort-of turning that love into the kind of caring they formerly provided for young children, which can be fulfilling for a while. The caregiving spouse PAYS attention, unfortunately gets Excitement from behavioral changes that occur with the afflicted spouse and is Passionate about all medications, supplements, health articles-- anything that will keep the relationship as well as the partner--alive longer.

My friend who has recently become a widow explains that she surprised herself by falling in love with the dependent, sweet man, so different from her spouse of 50 years she visited in the memory care center. Truly, her husband was the darling of the center--loved by everyone. 

Now my husband and one female resident share that spotlight. No one here knew either of them when they were vibrant, healthy intelligent communicators. They are loved, cared for gently and compassionately, but for their families it is definitely not good enough.

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