Memory Series: When Your Spouse Has Memory Issues
Love and Memory Issues: How Dementia Affects A Relationship
When we marry, we imagine ourselves growing old together and living out our golden years in peace and happiness. What we don’t often imagine, however, is a life where we or our spouse develops debilitating memory issues. When a spouse is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia or memory loss, it’s a life-changing event that can turn the lives of a couple upside down. That’s because dementia chips away at the very core of a relationship, and the healthy spouse ends up transitioning from partner and lover to caregiver.
It should come as no surprise that this shift is difficult and can cause many issues for both the spouse with dementia and the caregiving spouse. From the onset of the disease until the end, every couple has challenges to face that are constantly changing and evolving. Some of the most common challenges are:
● Additional responsibilities. While the partner with dementia is able to function independently for a time, the healthy partner will find him or herself shouldering more and more of the burdens of daily life. For example, a wife may find herself having to learn how to take care of bills and financial matters because her husband can no longer manage it. Or a husband may find himself cooking meals and cleaning house alongside his other responsibilities because his wife no longer remembers how to use the stove or shop at the grocery store. Eventually, the healthy spouse finds him or herself managing all aspects of daily life – alongside a full-time job of caregiving for their loved one.
● Declining health. Spouses are generally in the same stage of life, meaning that their risk of health issues is about the same. When a senior spouse develops dementia, the other spouse – also a senior – finds themselves having to deal with their own health issues atop of all the caregiving tasks. Being a caregiver is stressful and demanding, and can cause significant health issues for the caregiver as they become worn down and neglect their own well-being.
● The loss of the relationship. When one partner develops dementia and the other partner takes on a caregiving role, the spousal relationship often takes the back burner. It can be hard for the caregiving spouse to view their partner in a romantic way. This can cause stress, resentment and sadness for both parties as the romantic relationship between them becomes neglected.
At Melrose Meadows, we’ve had the privilege to care for many couples where one of the spouses is living with dementia or other memory issues. In many cases, the couple chose to move into our community in order to maintain their spousal relationship and make life easier for both parties.
How do we help? Well, because our Assisted Living unit is filled with caring (and always-available) staff, the healthy spouse can relax and take care of their own well-being. They no longer have to be “on call” at every second of the day, because we’re here to keep a caring eye on you and your loved one. So if you need to run errands, take a nap, take part in a fun activity or simply do something on your own, you don’t need to feel guilty or worried – your loved one will be safe with us.
Best of all, because the caregiving spouse is able to give up some of their caregiving responsibilities, couples are able to rekindle and nurture their spousal relationship. You have time to relax, spend time together and keep the romance alive. And that, in our opinion, is a priceless gift.