Monday, September 19, 2011

What Do You Think About This?

Pat Robertson has come out and said that it is okay to divorce your spouse if they have Alzheimer's disease. His stance is that the spouse is gone, at least mentally and it is permissible to move on with your life if you so choose.

What is your stance? I know mine, I just want to here from others.


Ticker said...

Before making any decisions on the subject I would suggest reading this book:

Dementia: The Monster Within

Most families have “skeletons” in the closet. For my wife's family, there was a Monster, a type of dementia that robs loving, intelligent individuals of everything—their dignity, their personality, their memory, their finances, and their minds. The “skeletons” are the remains of loved ones after the Monster has finished with them. The family members who are not devoured by this beast are, even so, crippled and maimed by its effects on their loved ones.

Dementia: The Monster Within is not an extensive explanation of dementia, although we show some of the science involved to help give understanding. It is first and foremost the story of our family, along with the stories of a few others who have met the Monster. Our experiences may be helpful in recognizing the initial assault. This book also provides a framework of essential steps necessary to prepare both caregiver and loved one for their futures. Most importantly, if you have been affected by this Monster, you should understand that you are not alone in your struggle.

There is an enormous responsibility in giving balance when sharing hope of curing these diseases. It would be unconscionable to offer false hope. Yet, there is every reason to have hope. As we write, clinical trials are being conducted for treatments, but each individual needs to be realistic—not every disease will be “cured” before causing harm to some of our loved ones. Tens of thousands of scientists in hundreds of research facilities around the world are making discoveries about dementia almost daily. Some of these discoveries will lead to treatments, and some will lead to cures of some of the dementias. We cannot give up hope that the future holds a way to … SLAY THE MONSTER!

The book covers the many forms of Dementia including what is known as Alzheimer's and how it affects the individual with the disease as well as the effects on the family.
It is widely read and is considered a primary source on the subject by experts in the field. The Author has appeared on shows nation wide and has spoken at meetings of professionals in this field.

The book can be ordered here:

I highly recommend it to anyone with a family member who is suffering from this disease or if you know of individuals who are struggling with the disease.

LASunsett said...

For better or sickness and in health. ....until death do you part.

I know I believe there are some instances when divorce is the only choice, but this isn't one of them.

Chuck said...

Ticker, it sounds like an interesting book.

I wrote this post for personal reasons though. My grandmother is in the later stages of Alzheimers so I know very well what it is like. We are not facing the issue of divorce because my grandfather has been dead for over 30 years.

If my wife were to develop this, I would stick with her. Maybe it's quaint and old fashioned but I did not have my fingers crossed behind my back when I said my vows.

I realize it would be hell but I would do it for her.

LA, I agree.

Phill Senters said...

I agree Chuck. A vow is a vow. No sickness should ever be an excuse.

Alligator said...

I've heard about this second hand, but I never saw the actual tape of what Robertson said. I am always suspicious when the mainstream media reports on what he or any other Evangelical says. I'd like to know the context of the whole dialogue before opining on Robertson directly.

Regardless of that, I don't believe with Alzheimer's that there is any biblical grounds for divorce. Why stop there? There is a whole load of diseases and disabilities that one could use to justify divorce. Slippery slope.

Z said...

Alligator, I believe I heard someone say that the question from a caller into Robertson's TV show said that he'd been seeing someone on the side because his wife was so 'gone'for so long and he felt guilt ridden. So Robertson said that he felt that since that woman's actually not herself in any way, the man should make sure she's totally cared for until she dies, and divorce and marry the woman he loves.

I can understand that..but I don't think I could do it. Having lost my husband almost 2 years ago now, the thought of abandoning him would have been impossible to consider. Well, obviously, his death has nothing to do with this point, but probably it makes me realize even more how precious his love was. And, when he was starting to get sick, I couldn't have left him for ANYTHING.
Alzheimers can last YEARS and that person's virtually GONE. I wonder if the wife would want this man to never know love again until she's dead?

THis is a tough one.....mostly, I'm on the side of "till death do us part"...but I see the other side, too.

Brooke said...

I'm not surprised Robertson said something so abhorrent.

I believe there are certain covenant breakers: adultery, abuse of the spouse/children...

Disease isn't one of them.

sue hanes said...

Chuck - I have had no personal experience in that area, and I don't think I would divorce my husband if he had alzheimers. you remember a couple of years ago when former Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor made public that her husband was in a nursing home with alzheimers and one day she visited him.

He was with another patient there -a woman - and I believe he did not recognize O'Connor. But she could clearly see that her husband was enamored with his new friend.

I'm sure it was hurtful for her, but she went public with it so that others might relate to it in the same situation.

And she said that she was happy that her husband was in a 'good place' - even in the throes of such a tragic and devestating disease.

Kind of a reverse of your question, isn't it.

sue hanes said...

Z - I like your comment.

cube said...

I stopped listening to Pat Roberston... oh wait, I never listened to Pat, so my comment is off limits,

Chuck said...

Phil, right

Alligator, I'm childish and immature - my wife could use that

Z, I actually thought about you and your husband when I was writing this. Interesting take on the fact that Alzheimer's is for years. I still come down on the side of til death do us part

Brooke, good points

Sue, before I became an RN I managed kitchens. The last one was at a nursing complex. We had spouses in the nursing home with dementia that were flirting with other patients. It is very hard on the "normal" spouse.

Cube, very good point - me too

Alligator said...

I've seen friends and neighbors with Alzheimer. I was a nurse's aide in a nursing home for two years. All I can say is that dementia in whatever form it takes, in so many ways is harder to cope with than a physical impairment.

Always On Watch said...

I said the following over at Texas Fred's site:

I have to admit that I’m of two minds on this topic.

As one who is the primary caregiver for a spouse — in spite of the fact that “the system” tried to force me into leaving my husband in a nursing home after his devastating stroke — I know that there sometimes comes a point when the only alternative is a divorce so as to prevent medical bankruptcy for both members of a marriage couple. There is no way to shelter my assets (inherited) from my husband’s medical debts (except for a little-known way to reword a house title in one name only and that step must be taken the first time the house is titled to an individual).

And, of course, sometimes the caregiver can no longer caregive because of physical reasons. I’m worried about coming to that point myself as I’m almost 60 years old.

The above said, Robertson shot off his mouth in a different direction from what I just said. Robertson is speaking of resuming one’s life with someone else after a spouse loses the beloved to Alzheimer’s Disease.

In my view, couples should discuss what to do when “the end game” arrives. In almost all cases, “the end game” arrives for one partner.

I do know people who have stipulated that their children and spouse walk away if dementia strikes. These people who have so stipulated are often those who have been caregivers for parents and know that there is “a point of no return.”

My mother-in-law (widowed) has advanced Alzheimer’s. The phone call telling us that she has gone to the Lord may come at any time. She’s in a world of her own — happy but with no recognition of anyone. She is physically healthy as far as any terminal or chronic illness is concerned, and what will likely kill her is the inability to swallow or pneumonia (aspiration of food and drink); she stipulated long ago that no feeding tube will be allowed.

She is blind, totally immobile (including unable to bring a fork to her mouth), unable to make a sound, incontinent, now having contractures, suffering from a few open sores, etc. None of those hideous manifestations are fatal.

She does smile; but the expression on her face is fixed and blank, and the smile appears with no stimulus. Strange. She must be thinking of something. But what?

I know that if I were in that condition I’d not want any of my family to see me: visits would do me no good and might well give my family unbearable nightmares. I’d want to be taken care of and kept clean — but by strangers.

You know, until recent advances in medicine, people with dementia didn’t live so long. At least, that has been my personal observation. In my mother-in-law’s case, if she had not had a GPS chip implanted, she’d likely have wandered off and died in the woods somewhere about 10 years ago.

An interesting book on the topic of early onset Alzheimer’s is Jan’s Story. If Peterson had divorced his beloved Jan, she would not be in the good institution where she lives now; Peterson, however, has resumed his love life with someone else. I imagine that Robertson condemns Peterson for adultery and would advocate that Peterson divorce Jan. But where would that leave Jan?

Of course, most of us do not have the financial resources that Peterson has. Once the state takes over care — divorce or no divorce — the one suffering from dementia does not receive the level of care that paying residents of a nursing home do.

The state tried to force me to put Mr. AOW in the worst nursing home in the area. I kid you not. They also said, “Even if you divorce him, your assets are at stake for two years of his care.” That amount could have been as high as $300,000! What would I then live on?

The Bible is silent on this issue of the hideous aging that can afflict any of us. In the end, we will all have to answer to the Lord for the way we handled our marriage vows.

Pardon the copy and paste. But, as you can see, I've given this issue a lot of consideration.

Chuck said...

AOW, good insight.

In the end, we will all have to answer to the Lord for the way we handled our marriage vows.

This said it all.

sue hanes said...

In reading all of the above comments I can only think one thing, and that is for all of us - believers and nonbelievers(and I doubt that there is really such a thing) - that one day we will stand before God and answer to Him for our actions.

That is really the bottom line.

sue hanes said...

Well, I guess I didn't quite read the comments carefully enough because I just repeated what AOW said.


Chuck said...

Sue, your point is still valid. Ultimately it is a personal decision. I still feel that the idea of cutting your losses and running is a bit selfish.

I guess to put it in perspective it is like we are saying we are willing to stick through the good times and the bad times, as long as the bad times aren't too bad.

MK said...

So much for - in sickness and in health. i suppose we shouldn't be so quick to judge, but we should at least try to keep our vows, i think.