D ear Amy: My husband and I have been together for 27 years. It was love at first sight and I would not trade our happy time together for anything or anyone else.
My husband has been stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. I am working full time trying to pay for his care, maintain our home and trying my best to maintain my sanity. About two years ago, I could no longer manage his care at home and found a facility for him. My husband always seems happy to see me when I visit, but he has no idea who I am.
Words cannot describe the heartbreak of watching him slip away. It is becoming more and more difficult and I go through all the anger, sadness, grief and loss, every day.
I recently met a man who knows about the situation with my husband. He is a perfect gentleman and I find myself attracted to him. I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations and the idea that someone sees me as more than a caregiver.
Am I wrong to want to pursue this relationship? I took my marriage vows seriously and I love my husband, but the man I married is no longer here. How do I go forward when I feel like my life is at a standstill?
— Wife/Caregiver in limbo
Dear Limbo: Your situation echoes that of journalist (and friend) Barry Petersen, whose vivacious wife Jan Chorlton had early-onset Alzheimer’s and ultimately died of the disease. Petersen writes honestly and lovingly about this challenging journey in his book: “Jan’s Story: Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer’s” (2010, Behler Publications). He also produced a story for “CBS Sunday Morning,” which you should watch. Petersen met his current wife Mary during the late stage of Jan’s disease and the two cared for her together “as a family of three” until the end – and later married.
As Petersen says of his relationship, “Don’t judge until you walk a mile in my shoes.” No one should have to take those footsteps, but many will. An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s; by mid-century, that number is expected to triple.
I hope this new friendship brings you happiness and that this man can assist you as a partner and friend while you continue to love and care for your husband.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a helpful resource, offering message boards, a “caregiver center” and a 24-hour help line: alz.org.
Dear Amy: My significant other was talked into getting a cellphone by her adult children. We do not live together, but I do spend most evenings with her and I spend the night on the weekends.
Every evening between 6 and 7 a particular daughter feels the need to call, and I end up sitting at the kitchen table eating supper by myself. I can expect calls on the weekend at around 2 in the morning from one of her intoxicated kids requesting a ride.
I told her these calls were disrespectful to me and unless they were of an emergency nature they could be taken after I left. She initially agreed but now she’s back to taking the calls. Should I not have more value than a cellphone?
Dear Miffed: Should you have more value than a cellphone? Yes.
DO you have more value to your partner than a conversation with her daughter? Guess not.
Yes, this is rude. But a mother who is going to leap out of bed to drive her intoxicated adult children home in the middle of the night is a mother who will always put her offspring first.
The next time you find yourself eating solo at the dinner table, maybe you should quietly get your coat and leave. If you’re going to eat alone, you might as well be alone.
Dear Amy: “Auntie Mame” was about to take a trip to Europe with her 18-year-old great-niece. The question was about whether the great-niece should drink alcohol in Italy, which would be legal.
I was shocked that you didn’t recommend they speak to the girl’s parents about this. What do they think?
— Shocked Reader
Dear Reader: The parents’ view matters, but they wouldn’t be on this trip.