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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Is Romance An Option When Your Spouse Has Alzheimer’s Disease?

Jim Garrett with his fiance, Becky Wells. Garrett began dating Wells after his wife developed Alzheimer's disease. (Photo courtesy of Jim Garrett)

Jim Garrett with his fiance, Becky Wells. Garrett began dating Wells after his wife developed Alzheimer’s disease. (Photo courtesy of Jim Garrett)

The baby boomer generation is beginning to confront Alzheimer’s disease, and for some people that may mean losing a spouse to a disease that robs them of their memory and ultimately their identity.

What happens when your partner is no longer the person you knew — but someone you may care for at home, or who may be institutionalized — can you begin to date other people? Should you look for another companion even though your spouse is still alive?

Jim Garrett confronted this complex situation when his wife developed the disease. She died last year, but even before then, Garrett decided to start dating.

Garrett joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to talk about his situation.

We then turn to Sharon Shaw, a psychologist who runs support groups at the Alzheimer’s Association of New York City, about the difficult decisions caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer’s face.

Interview Highlights: Jim Garrett and Sharon Shaw

Garrett on how his children reacted to his decision to date

“My kids reacted at various levels – my oldest daughter was sympathetic for my loneliness, whereas a couple of the boys didn’t understand why I needed to date.

“And I went to my minister and talked to him about it a little bit and I said I’m being honest and open about this – but I really don’t know what’s right or wrong. And he replied to me, ‘Well, you know, the definition of right and wrong constantly changes but the definition of honesty never does.’ And I thought that was right on.”

Garrett on the concept of “death do us part”

“That is absolutely in my mind a valid question. I think in the case of Alzheimers it’s such an insidious disease that it really takes the person away from you long before the physical death, and so in a way, you’ve lost your spouse — in this case — well before she physically passed away.”

Shaw on how she supports caregivers as they decide whether to date

“As a psychotherapist, I help people to explore this issue, to arrive at something again that feels right for them. But I think this is a value of support groups: because in groups, people are really very non-judgmental. And what we aim for is for caregivers to take care of themselves, and if finding a relationship – a meaningful relationship – while caring for a spouse helps someone to get through this difficult experience; if that works, then that’s a wonderful thing.

“And I also have to say that – again in my experience – no spouse that I know of who has started a relationship outside of their marriage with someone with the disease has abandoned their spouse. They continue to care for them fully and love them fully, while getting on with their own lives in a meaningful way.”

Guests

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

Now for some numbers: five million. That's how many Americans are living with Alzheimer's. Sixty-seven seconds, that's how often someone in the U.S. develops the disease. And 15.5 million, that's the number of caregivers in this country for people with Alzheimer's, all according to the Alzheimer's Association.

And it's the caregivers we want to focus on right now. It could be a friend, it could be a relative, but it's often a spouse. And our question is: If you are taking care of a spouse who has lost their memory and perhaps their identity, is it OK to start dating other people? Jim Garrett faced that dilemma after his wife developed Alzheimer's when she was 62. She passed away last year, but years before she did, Jim decided to start dating another woman even though his wife still lived in the house with him.

Jim is with us here in studio. Jim, thanks so much for joining us.

JIM GARRETT: You're welcome.

HOBSON: Well Jim, tell us about what happened with you and what happened with your marriage after your wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

GARRETT: Well, immediately after she was diagnosed, we sought advice as to how do you handle this sort of thing. And we turned to the Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and helped us plan the life that we were going to have together for as long as nature would let us have it together. As we moved forward, my wife then lost the ability to communicate somewhere in around the eight to 10 year mark.

As we moved forward, I also made the decision that I would not necessarily be her sole caregiver, and I think in the long run that was a good decision. I contacted and hired a gal that did an outstanding job over an eight-year period, the last eight years, and towards the end even organized a crew of gals that were with my wife 24/7.

HOBSON: Was your wife onboard with that decision to not - for you not to be the sole caregiver?

GARRETT: My wife at that point, at the point I made that decision, probably about six years after diagnosis, was unable to comprehend. So it - she didn't participate in that, but she did enjoy the company of the caregivers, which I suppose is a way of her endorsing the decision.

HOBSON: At what point did you decide to start dating?

GARRETT: Well, probably about five years before her death I, all of a sudden, realized that the non-communication, really the non-being able to relate to one another other than in the very basic of functions, I realized I was lonely and lonely for female companionship. I also felt that I could maybe enjoy that companionship dating, and so I tried a little bit of dating, after 45 years.

And obviously it's turned out where one of my dates were pretty significant to me, and so we have plans to be married.

HOBSON: Congratulations.

GARRETT: Thank you.

HOBSON: Were there any second thoughts, though, as that was going on? Did you feel guilty about it?

GARRETT: Well, I felt concerned that what I was feeling and the direction I was going was maybe not being defined in the social norms. You don't usually date if your wife, quote, is alive. But in this case, she was not really my wife anymore I guess is the only way you could say it.

And I read a book by Barry Peterson(ph) in which he was confronted with the same issue. His comment, and this sticks with me today, is I don't know what's right and wrong, but I'm making it up as I go along, and I hope to heck I'm right.

HOBSON: How did your kids react?

GARRETT: My kids reacted at various levels. My oldest daughter was sympathetic for my loneliness, whereas a couple of the boys didn't understand why I needed to date. And I went to my minister and talked to him about it a little bit, and I said I'm being honest and open about this, but I really don't know what's right or wrong. And he replied to me well, you know the definition of right and wrong constantly changes, but the definition of honesty never does. And I thought that was right on.

HOBSON: Well, it's interesting that you bring up your minister because some people listening to this may think, well, I thought the vow was till death do us part. And the question is what counts as death.

GARRETT: That is absolutely, in my mind, a valid question. I think in the case of Alzheimer's, it's such an insidious disease that it really takes the person away from you long before the physical death. And so in a way, you lost your spouse, in this case, well before she physically passed away.

HOBSON: We're speaking with Jim Garrett, whose wife passed away last year after a 14-year battle with Alzheimer's. And please weigh in at our website, hereandnow.org, if you've been in a situation. We'd love to hear from you. This is HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW, and we've been talking with Jim Garrett. He's 75 and recently lost his wife to Alzheimer's disease. But years before she died, Jim decided to start dating, even though his wife was still living at home with him. Let's now bring in Sharon Shaw. She's a psychologist and runs support groups at the Alzheimer's Association of New York City. Sharon, you heard Jim's story there. What do you think of it? I'm sure you've dealt with stuff like this in the past.

SHARON SHAW: Yes, I have. I've led a support group for spouses for the last 23 years at the Alzheimer's Association in New York City. And this comes up periodically, I have to say not a lot. It may be that there are some people who are dating and who don't want to talk about it in the support group. There are others who gain a great deal of comfort talking with other people in the group who have known them for a long time and understand their situation and also understand how lonely it can be living with someone who has changed so dramatically and is no longer a companion in so many ways.

So, you know, I do think, Jim, I think what you're describing is that this is, initially, very uncharted territory for spouses, something one never expects. And, you know, you kind of go along and do what feels right with the support of people who care about you.

HOBSON: Sharon, what advice do you give to people who come to you with a situation like this?

SHAW: Well, I don't really give advice. I - you know, as a psychotherapist I help people to explore, you know, this issue, to arrive at something again that feels right for them. But I think this is the value of support groups because in groups, people are really very non-judgmental, and what we aim for is for caregivers to take care of themselves.

And if finding a relationship, a meaningful relationship while caring for a spouse helps someone to get through this difficult experience, if that works, then, you know, that's a wonderful thing. And I also have to say that again in my experience, no spouse that I know of who has started a relationship outside of their marriage with someone with disease has abandoned their spouse. They continue to care for them fully and love them fully while, you know, getting on with their own lives in a meaningful way.

HOBSON: Jim, you're nodding your head.

GARRETT: I'm nodding my head. I couldn't have put it better. That's exactly the way I felt, and when you're 75 years old, there isn't a huge future ahead of you. So you need to get on with your life.

HOBSON: How does the relationship work with the woman that you are dating and now that you are going to be married to while you have to at the same time care for your wife?

GARRETT: That relationship was outstanding. I think I'm going to marry because she is an extraordinary person, and she fully understood and would chase me out of her house after dinner, saying you've got to get home. And she did that on a regular basis, fully understood that I was committed to this, and I needed to see the commitment to the end.

HOBSON: Now how have your children reacted to the fact that you are now going to marry this woman?

GARRETT: My children are still sorting out my wife's death. To them she didn't depart until we buried her, and at this point they're still grieving I think is probably the correct phrase. And we're trying to sort it out as a family now.

HOBSON: Sharon, how does it figure in when there are children of the person who is making the decision about whether to start dating while also caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's?

SHAW: You know, it depends so much on the family dynamic and on the history of the relationships, you know, both between the children and the person with the disease and the children and the caregiver. You know, I've seen situations I think Jim you described. Your daughter was sympathetic and supportive; your son perhaps less so. And I think it really varies from family to family.

But, you know, most children want their parents to be happy. And, you know, again unless there's a history that really gets in the way of working this thing through, you know, children are generally supportive.

GARRETT: Well, I think in my case, their desire for me to be happy seems to be in conflict with the loss of their mother. And I think that's what they're in the process of trying to sort out.

HOBSON: You know, one of the things that I notice in speaking to both of you is that this situation is not clear-cut, and there's no guidebook for it, even though this is already affecting so many people and probably will affect many, many more in the coming years. Final thoughts on that, first to you, Sharon, about the fact that people don't know what to do in a situation like this.

SHAW: Well, people don't know what to do when they get a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. And, you know, this is a shock to the person with the disease and to the family members. And Jim, you're involved with the Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts, I with the association of New York City. And what we suggest is that people, you know, connect with the Alzheimer's Association and get help from the beginning all the way through to the death of the person with the disease. There's so many services that are available and not only support groups but education programs and individual counseling if necessary, and, you know, where to find help and how to get the best diapers and whatever it might be.

So there's a lot of help out there, and I think that that really is the key to getting through this illness.

HOBSON: Jim?

GARRETT: The social worker with hospice, near the end of Jane's life, I spoke with her after Jane's death about my now fiancee, my desire to marry her, desire to move forward. And she told me a story that I thought was interesting. It was a personal story of hers. She had lost her father, and her mother immediately found somebody else that she wanted to marry. And this social worker just couldn't fathom how mom could move on so fast.

And one of her friends walked up to her and said well, you know, for somebody that wants to move on so quickly, their previous marriage must have been really great in order for her to want to continue to be married. That's the way I feel.

HOBSON: Well, Jim Garrett and Sharon Shaw, thank you so much to both of you for joining us.

SHAW: Thank you.

GARRETT: And thank you.

HOBSON: Jim Garrett, who recently lost his wife to Alzheimer's, he started dating another woman years before his wife died. And as you just heard, they are now engaged to be married. Sharon Shaw is a psychologist who runs support groups at the Alzheimer's Association of New York City. And please write us if you face something like this. If a member of your family is one of the more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer's, do you think it's OK to start dating while taking care of a spouse with the disease? You can go to hereandnow.org and leave a comment, or you can tweet us @hereandnow. I'm @jeremyhobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • msrichards

    I had to turn off your program when “dating” and “Alzheimer’s” inhabited the same sentence.
    Most people I know who are caregivers for people with dementia can barely get through the day’s unending chores and frustrations.
    I surely have no bias against a caregiver building relationships …but “dating?” That sounds so, well, “high-school!”

  • dt03044

    I have sympathiy for Jim. I’ve seen this disease up close and it can be a really long haul. If he felt the need to move on emotionally, I can’t blame him. Nobody wants to spend his/her final decades waiting for a spouse to be gone, when in essence, they are already gone.

    • Minou Barton

      …then divorce them. That’s what one does when one is tired of the marriage, needs aren’t being met, other pastures are beckoning.

      He didn’t, because he wanted it both ways.

  • fishbuckle

    would the feelings toward Jim be the same if he was a woman and his wife was the husband in the family?

    • melovechocolate

      I would certainly respect a woman’s choice to find a mate in the same situation as Mr. Garrett.

    • A disgruntled youth

      I would still disagree with it.

    • Minou Barton

      I would. Same reasons. Ick!

  • sms2551

    I had EXACTLY the same reaction!

  • Hurt

    Your program caught my attention. My husband is having a affair with our long time friend. Her husband has Alzheimer’s and we were helping her. We wanted to be supportive of our friends. My husband starting spending more and more time with them and then he told me he was having an affair with her and I was expected to just put up with it.. I said but we are married and they are married what about her husband who was our friend? My husbands answer to me was she was only a caretaker because her husband was gone as a husband and she felt like they were no longer married. I asked my husband to leave.. So the question of is it ok to start dating if your spouse has Alzheimer’s?? Really hurts me to think about that! I am still about until death do us part. And now I parted before that, unwilling to put up with betrayal and the hurt and pain our helping our friends has accomplished.

    • RD

      I also wanted to turn off the program in disgust. Justifying that she is “dead” and has “left the marriage” and that “truth” when speaking to the priest is not a constant??? Call it like it is, but twisting truth and vows when convenient to is appalling

      • David Terrenoire

        I sincerely hope you will never experience the loneliness and isolation we caregivers know intimately. If you do, I hope those around you are more supportive and understanding than this comment.

        • melovechocolate

          We are David. You do what you think feels right in your heart and soul. You need to take care of yourself because it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you have negative individuals who have not lived through anything like this, to judge you. They are mere imperfect humans with self-righteous airs.

          • Minou Barton

            You know, that’s actually what YOU are doing.

            You don’t know what I’ve lived through, nor what hard choices I’ve made nor what tough consequences I’ve had.

            You just know you disagree, and according to your me-ology (that is, your own righteousness, also known as self-righteousness) you deem that anyone who disagrees with you must be stupid or live in fairyland where nothing bad ever happens.

            Funny.

          • melovechocolate

            Boy, from all of the comments you’ve left here, it’s pretty clear that you have the self-righteous character, not I.

          • Minou Barton

            It’s hard for me to understand why you think that YOU telling people they are wrong is okay, but anyone else saying someone is wrong is self-righteous. Can you explain?

          • melovechocolate

            NEVER said anyone was wrong–only YOU did. You sound like you are bitter. Minou, I love you man.

          • Minou Barton

            I’m in a pretty flippant mood, but no, I wouldn’t say I’m bitter.

            I get irritated (as earlier noted! ;)) by those who seek to flip the words “good” and “evil.”

            Oh. Wait. Isaiah 5:20 doesn’t need ME to defend it, does it?

            Good night, sweet dreams!

          • melovechocolate

            May the power of love shower you.

          • Minou Barton

            May the Truth of Love shower you! :D

          • melovechocolate

            Got it! Thanks!

    • melovechocolate

      I am sorry that your husband had an affair with your best friend and used that excuse as his alibi. I believe that the caregiver of an advanced stage alzheimer’s victim should choose to see other people if they so choose, but certainly not break apart another marriage in doing so. Living with a spouse in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s is something you understand until you experience it, so hopefully you don’t base your perspective on the subject based on what you’ve experienced. Your best “friend” is definitely a rat, and your husband’s betrayal must be painful. In your place, I would definitely seek counseling, seek my friends for comfort, roll up my sleeves, and find your happiness.

      • Hurt

        I am now my dads care taker. My mother passed away August. Dad is 94 and has dementia. So I am tired as the rest of you. I am getting counseling and I am glad I am not a person who would cheat on my spouse or betray a friend or anyone. Watching my parents who were married for 72 years and they stood by each other through sickness and in health makes me want to honor my dad and my hearth goes out to anyone who has to watch their spouse or loved one suffer. I am finding my happiness and I hope my writing about my husband pretending to help our friend in need with his only intention was to have sex with her all along will help others not do something that is so painful to a spouse. My best to all the folks who are living with someone who has this terrible disease.

      • Minou Barton

        Ironic.

        I’m sure the cheating husband would say
        –”she wasn’t meeting my needs,”
        – “she wasn’t the girl I married,” and
        –”I was lonely in my marriage and I want happiness NOW and time is too short to waste.”

        But you want to be able to decide to which of these cases these arguments are legitimately applied.

        Ha. SELF-righteous relativism, anyone?

    • Minou Barton

      Wow. It’s bizarre that your husband tried to present adultery as a “noble cause.”

      I’m sorry for your pain, and I hope the next phase of your life brings you a wonderful mate and a much, much better “best friends.”

      • Hurt

        Thank you !

  • Alive

    I was 38 when my husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I was 43 when he was placed in a nursing home because it wasn’t safe for me to keep him home; he was 57 and physically very strong and prone to violent outbursts when he got frustrated. 6 months before he died, I did start dating. I didn’t start going to bars or anything, it just happened. It was difficult at first because there were some people completely against it (one person even going as far as telling me I was going to hell for my behavior). It comes down to what is best for you, not everyone else. I was faithful in my heart to my husband…to the very end.

    I think there is no “right” or “wrong” answer; you do what you have to do and try not to worry about what other people will say.

    • Minou Barton

      I’m sorry for your situation, but I have to disagree that “in my heart” meets the baloney test. I guess you tell yourself what you need to in order to look yourself in the eye in the mirror each morning, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. You now know the price of your integrity, the quality of your character.

      • Alive

        If you have never been through this journey of Alzheimer’s disease, you don’t know. What is right for one is not necessarily right for another, and baloney has nothing to do with it. I did what was “right” for me and I would do it all again if needed. When you have walked in my shoes, you may judge.

        • Guest

          I disagree. I don’t have to have someone I love murdered to know it’s wrong. I don’t have to be confronted with the opportunity to have an affair to know it would be wrong. It’s facile to say, “Well, unless you have ever felt bad like I feel bad you can’t say what I do about it is wrong.” Uh, if that were a valid excuse, many a murderer and thief couldn’t be prosecuted. However provoked, it’s just wrong.

  • LifeInTheGrey

    I think there are a few issues to consider in this situation. While my mother does not suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, she suffered a serious stroke in 2011 that left her severely cognitively compromised. After two years of constant caregiving, with little hope for my mom’s full recovery, my father himself became sick himself (considerable weight loss, depression, and major anxiety). Losing two parents to my mother’s disease became a scary and real possibility. He has recently begun dating someone and is visibly happier and healthier. Even though it is difficult for me to consider my father with someone new, I am grateful that my father has found emotional support and that he will not become more ill himself. My father sees a future for himself now that includes his girlfriend, whereas before my mother’s decline functioned as a symbolic predictor of his own mortality.

    My father was not raised to consider psychotherapy as an option for emotional support – vulnerability was considered a weakness – and I don’t think he and his male friends regularly meet on an emotional level. I would venture to say that most men do not connect with other men on this level. I do think that if the tables were turned, and a woman was caring for her sick husband, there would be more socially-sanctioned support options available.

    As my father’s youngest daughter and a recent newlywed myself, I have tried to put myself in my father’s shoes, imagining what I might do if my husband became ill to such an irrevocable extent. The scenarios, however, aren’t easily reconciliable. For myself, I can imagine relying heavily on my female friends and a therapist for psychological support, all the while remaining faithful to my husband. Because those options are not considered “options” to my father, it makes sense to me (it’s not easy for me, but I understand it) that he would seek solace in the arms of another woman.

    Finally, I will say that even though I have an idea of what I might do in my father’s situation, such notions currently exist in the realm of the abstract or theoretical, and I can’t exactly predict how I would respond in such a situation until I’m in it.

    • Minou Barton

      All I can say is “Bless your heart.” What a mess! How lucky your dad is that you are trying so mightily to give him the benefit of the doubt!!

  • melovechocolate

    My mother died of Alzheimer’s, so this story hits home. My father was a person with a great deal of integrity, and keeping his word was vital in everything he did. When my mother’s alzheimer’s advanced to the last stages, where she needed a great deal of care and didn’t recognize the family, my father was under much strain–both physical and emotional. Seeing your partner of 50 years deteriorate to such extreme takes a tremendous toll on the caregiver. My mother was cared for mostly by my father, and I tried to help as much as possible and be supportive, but my father was very lonely. Like Mr. Garret’s older daughter, I felt sympathetic; I had suggested to my father to go out and meet people–perhaps a mate. Being a man of integrity, he believed that keeping his vow “until death do us part”, was of utmost importance to him. Unfortunately, my father became one of the statistics that have shown how a surviving spouse dies within 2 years of his mate. I truly believe that if my father had considered finding someone who would provide the love, affection and support of a mate, he might have had the will and inspiration to live longer. I am convinced he died of sadness. After living through my mother’s alzheimer’s and seeing the toll on my father and on the family, I have told my husband to not feel a single bit of remorse if he is stuck in the same situation–I’d support his decision to find a mate once I’ve started fading. We all need love and affection, and it’s very difficult when one experiences the loss of a loved one’s identity combined with impaired physical abilities alone. I hope Mr. Garrett’s sons understand that his happiness will provide them and their children with more years to enjoy their father’s presence in their lives. Excellent story, thank you Here & Now.

    • Minou Barton

      God bless your daddy for giving you a wonderful example of what love is, what it may cost (is it worth anything if it’s nothing but cheap?). He may have died from sadness, but he died with his legacy of love and honor intact, a blessing not only to you and others who saw, but to himself.

      • melovechocolate

        It was his choice.But I would have respected him completely if he had chosen to find a companion.

        • Minou Barton

          Like you have said below, you don’t know WHAT you’d feel.

          I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who wouldn’t mourn the loss of respect for a dad who chose as Garrett did.

          • melovechocolate

            I never said II didn’t know what I feel. I wouldn’t mourn a “loss” of respect, so you don’t know all of the people on this planet.

          • Minou Barton

            melovechocolate: ” I would have respected…”

            Respect: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person

            Esteem: to regard highly or favorably

            Regard: to look upon or think of with a particular FEELING

            That said, I believe you DID mention how you might FEEL.

          • melovechocolate

            Minou, you didn’t grasp what I was saying. Here you go:
            1. I respected his choice.
            2. If he would have made a different choice before he died, I would have still respected it.
            Minou, your postings seem to all reflect conflict and bitterness. I’m starting to feel compassion for you.
            May God send peace to you and yours.

          • Minou Barton

            Why, thank you! The same to you!

            I’m not bitter, but thanks. I’m irritated. It’s possible to have compassion and still shake your head at how poorly someone found relief from hard times. It’s possible to recognize a terrible situation and disagree wholeheartedly with the “whatever works” philosophy being espoused in response to it.

          • melovechocolate

            Minou, I love ya man.

          • sae

            Me I wouldn’t. What is wrong with you people? What? You have never been lonely or afraid of dying alone?

  • supportgroupmember

    Caregivers of persons with Alzheimers and other dementias deserve enormous compassion and support, especially from other family members, who often do not ask how the caregiver is doing and how they can help her/him. The focus is on the person with dementia and Their needs. The caregivers are largely homebound, most friends stop visiting, and they are isolated and stripped of most activities and contacts that gave meaning to life, let alone enjoyment.
    Very often, beyond ceasing to be able to show affection back, the person stricken with dementia goes through stages of very difficult behaviors that hurt and wear out even the most loving caregivers. They and their families often neglect their own physical health during this long, long, agonizing haul.

    “In sickness or in health; for better or worse” If you love and have compassion for someone, don’t you want them to have some happiness?

    I am not surprised to hear the psychologist (?) say those caregivers she knows of, who develop additional liaisons, continue to provide just as loving care. As a very long-time support group and family member I have heard the anguish of spouses who starve for someone with whom they can discuss their feelings and/or feel loved. I am sure there are also many who are not honest or honorable.

    I urge family and friends to be compassionate and forgiving; even more, to provide support and relief: Tell and show all those affected by these devastating diseases that you love them, want to understand, and will help them.

    I strongly second the encouragement to attend support groups, and other services provided by such groups as Alzheimers Resource Agency.

    • Minou Barton

      I just have to say, it’s possible to find solace and friendship outside of a romantic relationship. My husband and his “band of brothers” meet for beers and burgers. When one member’s wife’s MS stole her completely away, the Brothers stepped in to provide support. No kissing, some hugging, no adultery required.

      With his dear wife departed, this Brother moves into the next stage of his life with his friends’ and children’s respect and admiration, ready to meet a fine lady. We’ll all welcome her–and him–and be proud to know them both.

  • Carolina R.

    “Through sickness and health, through good times and bad times.” Listening to Jim talked about his ex-wife really broke my heart. How can you break such a beautiful promise? However… I am not in Jim’s position. I shouldnt judge.

  • Joyce Carlson

    It is absolutely wrong to date when you are married. You took vows to take care of each other through sickness and in health.

    • melovechocolate

      It’s easy to say when you are not in that situation. The question is whether it is still a marriage when the alzheimer’s patient doesn’t recognize you and even REJECTS you. Read up on Alzheimer’s, it’s a disease like none other. You still have a moral obligation to make sure the person is safe and taken care of, but the caregiver needs to take care of his/her own needs. I support Mr. Garrett and any other woman/man caregiver in this position because I’ve seen it up close.

      • Minou Barton

        I do think it’s the same. My mate is chronically ill. I made a promise a quarter of a century ago when he was fit and witty and so smart it made my head spin, and I have set my mind to keep it, whatever God has in store. As this illness (and any others that develop) and our life together progress, I just don’t see how my “need for companionship” can’t be met with my girlfriends and family, why my needs for personal fulfillment and excitement can’t be met with my hobbies and volunteer opportunities and contributions to society. NONE of those will cause me to break any of our vows, but they bring me joy and support, and have the added benefit of doing the same for others. I’m hoping my kids won’t be ashamed of me for the way I’ve loved their dad. I don’t want them to have to make excuses for me…and it’s guided my decisions many times. “What would I hope to see (my child) learn from my choice here? What will make them proud?”

        Anybody’s who’s endured the romance-challenged years of growing a family and/or the indignities of grey-haired romance and sexuality (creaky joints, fatigue, etc.) can tell you marriage at its best can be hard sometimes, but there’s a blessing to be had in sticking with it.

        I attended a wedding once where necklaces were exchanged, and the “vows” spoke of moving on when the time was right. Perhaps that’s the sort of vows Garrett’s wife-to-be might like to look into?

        • Mina

          Minou, I have enjoyed watching your comments over the past hour and glad to know there are others who share a similar mind set as I do to the question that was asked.

          I am also glad to hear A disgruntled youth is young and that he too shares the same value as I in the word vow. There is some hope in our youth in that they will act with integrity in all things and value what a vow is.

          I am so lucky today in that I am married to my best friend. This year we will celebrate our 20th anniversary, and I know there are many comments above and below that say maybe we can’t develop an opinion like theirs because we have not seen or walked in their shoes. Trust me, we have seen our parents on both sides handle long illness and death. Being married, and committed to marriage, means you are going to have to work at it everyday. I believe the greatest expression of love is shown through the act of being by your love’s side during the most difficult of times.

        • melovechocolate

          We’re all different, love.

        • Mina

          Guest, I see my first comment did not land where I intended, but I liked everything you said here too. It’s about growing old together and being in it for the long haul, through thick and thin, for better or worse. :)

        • jonathanpulliam

          What a despicable low-life you appear to be, “Guest”.

    • A disgruntled youth

      I agree with you. Melovechocolate clearly does not understand marriage vows. They actually say nothing about protection or provision, those are inherent in the love you swear to give them. Marriage vows are to swear undying love until death comes to separate you forever, to cut that love short, that unconditional love that knows no limits, is a sad gauge of the how low integrity is placed on a list of ones priorities.

    • Minou Barton

      I agree. “I’m LONELY!” or “S/he’s not meeting my neeeeds!” sounds like a perpetual toddler giving an excuse for why what s/he wants to do should be okay.

  • Mina

    Unbelievable question. I know in my marriage vows we said “in sickness and health.” This story is another example of how society is accepting of instant gratification. Maybe it is your test to see if you can endure what life has given you. If you said these words in your vows in a faith setting then there should be no question if it is ok. Absolutely not. I will not judge you, that will be between you and your maker.

    • melovechocolate

      Your response is contradictory. Indeed, judgement will be between God and each of us. In making these kind of decisions, we consult with our heart and conscience. Mr. Garrett clearly did so and even consulted with his minister. Don’t judge, Mina.

      • Mina

        If it makes it better to tell yourself that then all the more to you. I obviously have a different definition on what a marriage vow is. Men and women of cloth are also fallable. So again if you want to tell yourself that to feel better go right ahead.

        • melovechocolate

          Yes Mina, I will definitely tell myself to not judge AND MEAN IT.

          • Minou Barton

            Not judge? Really? You will eat anything anybody hands you, whether you know them or not? You will sit next to somebody who’s holding a dagger and smeared with blood?

            I didn’t think so. You mean, I won’t judge anybody doing anything I might want to do.

      • Minou Barton

        We HAVE to judge/discern, otherwise we’d marry anyone or do anything. Like decide somebody’s too much trouble and we’re LONELY, then go off and do whatever we want. Yuck.

        • melovechocolate

          What is it with you? All of your responses are going in a completely different direction. I don’t eat everything someone hands me, that’s why I believe there are different solutions for different situations. **WHY** would ANYONE want to sit next to somebody with a bloody dagger????! If you are assuming the position as “judge”, that goes against my religion and my principles because only GOD has that power. Wow Minou. You ain’t no GOD. Done with you.

          • Minou Barton

            Do you see my point? We do judge. We have to. We have to look at something to decide whether it’s right/wrong. God has the power to CONDEMN, but He kindly shared the power to figure those two out.

          • melovechocolate

            YIKES…

          • Minou Barton

            Eloquent.

            I stand by my original point: “you shouldn’t judge” is overused sophistry. If you don’t use discernment, you’ll do anything–even sit by a crazy person with a knife. We HAVE to decide what’s not right, what we will/won’t do, what we want those around us to do/not do. It doesn’t condemn them to hell (condemnation, a power ONLY God has), but it IS judging.

            Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

          • melovechocolate

            Minou, seriously, I love ya man.

    • A disgruntled youth

      I agree with you Mina, I do not judge him, I judge the quality of his character based on his actions. He may be a great person to know but his actions rub me wrong. They say that the youth of today has fallen far from the morals of our elders, however this story just proves that we have been taught by those before us what is and isn’t acceptable. I am not old by any means, only 24, but this man just completely broke his wedding vows. Sickness and health until death.

  • guest

    Sorry, and with all due
    respect, Jim is wrong in this matter. While people can and do justify what they
    “want”, to have what they want, it seems more like a selfish act to me, and to
    the sanctity of a marriage/relationship.

    • David Terrenoire

      It’s very easy to judge from afar. I would withhold your condemnation until you’ve walked a while in these shoes. I love my wife deeply, but this disease has stolen her away from me and the part of the vow I continue to honor is “in sickness and in health.”

      • guest

        Our lives become what we let them become. It is impossible to “walk in
        the shoes” of every person’s “versions” of life/living. Principles
        mean everything, or they mean nothing. You can’t have them both ways.

        • David Terrenoire

          Our lives do not become what we let them become. We didn’t let Alzheimer’s take my wife. It happened. To suggest otherwise is naive.

          And while it’s true that it’s impossible to experience everyone’s version of life, we can at the very least be humble in our ignorance.

          Your principles that you believe are made of iron, tend to become more malleable in dire straits. Trust me on this.

          • guest

            You also can’t control the weather, or aging, or most other aspects. The ONLY thing you can control is YOUR reaction to them. Therefore your life becomes what you let it become. It appears that you might need to study the word “principles” a little more.

        • Minou Barton

          When YOU are the point of your life, you have a me-ology. It’s very easy then to “me” yourself right out of any ghosts of integrity, principle, character, or love.

      • Bill

        So David, you’ve chosen to pick out the parts of your sacred vow that are easiest?

        • melovechocolate

          David is not abandoning his wife, Bill. Alzheimer’s changes the whole dynamic of a relationship that you can’t understand until you are there. The worst part about judging is that you cast the first stone as if you were free of sin. STOP IT.

          • guest

            So, your principles say that you don’t steal. Unless your live changes, and you lose your job/house/way of life, and then, it is okay to do what you want/need to survive, including steal?

          • melovechocolate

            I didn’t talk about stealing. Although if someone decided to steal to stay alive, I will not judge them. Hopefully they repay some way in their lifetime. But that’s another subject. Principles aren’t black and white.

          • guest

            Principles are black and white, that is why they are called principles. Your decisions to abide by different principles is the only thing that changes.

          • melovechocolate

            Then you live your life by your “principles”, and let other live by theirs. No harm done to you.

          • guest

            Ditto. Though, we know that living to principles mean very little to you, now, don’t we?

          • melovechocolate

            You don’t know me.

          • guest

            You have given us a pretty good picture.

          • melovechocolate

            Says someone who judges people based on social media.

          • guest

            And you didn’t? Do you want to argue a point, or, are you done?

          • melovechocolate

            No sir. I’m not the one saying principles mean little to you, nor am I the one who was judging you. I simply see things differently, and you’re getting defensive. But whatever dude. I’m done with you. Peace OUT.

          • Minou Barton

            Exactly, guest.

            melovechocolate: “YOU are bad and stupid! Stop judging!”

            LOL.

          • melovechocolate

            Minou, you are judgemental and offending to make a point. Not good.

          • times are achanging

            to melovechocolate, Hi some times you are always going to have those people who are going to judge, & upset you. At the end of the day it is between you (whoever), your partner(& hopefully you know each other well enough or you have being lucky & talked to each other in time to know their thoughts on the matter) & our maker. If you can live with your decision because in this journey there will be many shitty decisions that will have to be made then that is all that matter. Mine are ahead of me & Im really not looking towards it . Many people will judge those as well.

          • Bill

            But weren’t we asked for our opinion? Isn’t that what this discussion is about?

          • jonathanpulliam

            A principled person doesn’t slink in here and post from behind a pseudonym a steaming pile of “holier than thou” pronouncements as if he or she were some sort of recognized moral arbiter.

          • Minou Barton

            You, judging Bill.

            Telling him to STOP IT.

            Like you know right from wrong.

            What’s up with that? (Are you ALONE worthy of judging, then?)

          • melovechocolate

            Where did I judge?

          • Bill

            I’m not speaking of sin I am speaking of commitment and moral compassion. A vow was sworn before man and God, bound until by death. I have been there and it is grievously difficult but it is what makes us human.

          • willow

            Alzheimer’s comes under the category in the wedding vow of “In sickness and in health.” It is amazing how so many posters here try to twist and pervert the vow in order to justify screwing someone else while their spouse is still ALIVE.

        • David Terrenoire

          Easiest. That made me laugh.

          • A disgruntled youth

            If keeping your vows isn’t easy you should never make any. The decision to stick to them should at least be easy even if the work involved is not. I’m in the navy and it’s easy to push myself to keep to our core values and to push myself to keep to our creed, the work involved in doing those things is hard work but the decision to do so is never a question in my mind.

          • David Terrenoire

            I will just say that you are young. Life hasn’t tossed you a catastrophe, is my guess. I am a vet myself and understand concepts of honor and the strength of vows. People in hard circumstances often make wrong decisions, as I did. I am fallible. That said, principles will change over a lifetime. That doesn’t mean they’re not important. I have been a faithful, loyal husband and caregiver for 33 years out of 34. But you are young. When you’ve been married as long as I have and then have your entire world stripped away, get back to me. My guess is you won’t be seeing things so black and white with a little of life’s hard experience.

          • Minou Barton

            Life’s tossed me a few in my 50+ years. I pray my principles don’t change so that my kids and grandkids can look up to me, knowing that love and the vows behind it aren’t something you lay down when you get tired of holding them high.

            Well, not if you expect to keep your integrity, anyway.

          • Eagle

            Hooyah!

          • Bill

            Honestly, I wasn’t at the ceremony when you spoke your vows so I don’t k now what you swore.

      • Minou Barton

        Ugh. That’s despicable.

      • the times are achanging

        Thank you David , a voice from the dark, exactly ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. My husband of 26 years has had the dreaded disease since 2004 – 10 years of those 10 years I have managed to have him home with me 9 of those years. Towards the end I could not communicate well with him, through fustration I think he became abusive where I actually had two black eyes, he had to go to hospital several times it took 5 men to calm him. I love my husband, who is now being in a nursing home for 12 months come august. When I go to visit him I think he still knows my voice & touch -hugs, cuddles, kisses, but on a bad day forget it he is in a terrible world of his own , lonely, confronting, confussing, bewildering – wouldn’t you be hostile too. & there you have it to “Honour” in sickness & in Health” until death do you part. I have just started to think about companionship, going out & talking to someone who can make me laugh & to challenge me mentally. I will still love my husband, & honor him. If someone has being lucky enough to find someone special in their lives who gets on really well with them & their family, I don’t think they should be slammed for that, so long as they have being up front about everything.

    • Janet L

      Jim’s story hit close to home, as I had a mother who died
      11 yeas after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My father took care of
      her for all those years. The last 5 years we hired a part-time caregiver
      to help care for her. She died at home from her disease. My father
      was in the next room, alone.

      My father never complained, but when my
      mother stopped communicating and then didn’t even recognize him, he became
      exceedingly lonely. He was suffering more than she, as he was still
      vibrant, and needed what we all need: love, companionship,
      intellectual stimulation. With our blessing, we encouraged him to get
      out of the house while the care giver was there. He found a ballroom
      dance group and teacher. Sad to say, they took advantage of his situation
      and loneliness, borrowing money they couldn’t repay. My father
      was too independent to ask his children for advice. We were too
      busy with our own lives to spend more than a few hours a week
      helping.

      My father kept his
      vows. He spent his prime retirement years in a house, caring for a
      spouse that called him “the man” (when she still had some ability to
      communicate). A year later her speech descended to senseless
      strings of numbers ceaselessly repeated while walking the halls.

  • DoggyMom

    What gets me angry about this is that it is clearly an option only for those with considerable financial resources. If you don’t have a lot of money — and I mean A LOT — you don’t have the time to cultivate new, intimate relationships. I guess NPR needs to do stories that are primarily for the wealthy so they’ll continue to contribute.

    • melovechocolate

      You need money to cultivate relationships? You have SO much to learn about life, my friend. SO MUCH.

      • DoggyMom

        You don’t need money to cultivate relationships, you need time. If you’re taking care of someone pretty much 24/7 you hardly have time to sleep much less cultivate a relationship of any sort. Did you read my post carefully. It clearly states that the problem is time. People with money can hire nurses, nurses aides, etc. Those without are left having to devote all their time to the sick person.

      • Minou Barton

        What a judgmental tone!

        • melovechocolate

          Minou, I love ya man.

  • Lily of the Lake

    My mother had Alzheimers for 15 years. When my Dad was still caring for her at home (and running his restaurant business 7 days a week!) he had a massive heart attack. I flew out from California (they lived in Mass.) and lo and behold there was a lovely older woman at his beside. It was then I found out he’d been seeing someone – for at least 3 years. I was thrilled and relieved that his super-dedicated and hard-working man had known some solace and companionship. She and I became fast friends throughout his long, complicated illness post-bypass surgery (I began staying with her on my monthly visits.) He eventually died from the surgery – never even got to go home. I am grateful his last few years were made somewhat happier and brighter through his relationship.

    • Minou Barton

      I’ve been thinking about your response, your situation for a couple of hours now. I think that had I walked into my parent’s room and found a paramour, I’d have had to completely rethink everything that parent had ever taught me. Did you?

  • Frog

    I can’t make a judgment about the right or wrong of Mr. Garrett’s decision. It is a nightmare none of us want to experience. Without knowing more, I tend to think he did nothing wrong and did his best to care for his wife.

    However, I was troubled with parsing of the “until death do us part” to include alzheimer’s (and I guess any other major personality changing disorder). It seems like it rationalizes away “in sickness and health”. This seemed strange especially after just quoting his pastor about “honesty”.

    • Minou Barton

      You can’t tell right or wrong?

      • Frog

        I can when I have enough information. 13 minutes is not enough time for me.

        • Minou Barton

          If, in that 13 minutes, the information given includes adultery…?

    • Alive

      Alzheimer’s is a kind of death. It doesn’t only change the personality, it takes it away. “Till death do us part” is a completely societal concept. Again, until one has experienced this horrible disease, one cannot know.

      • Frog

        People with Alzheimer’s are not dead or kind of dead. Many function normally for years. They have a disease and they deserve the same love, loyalty and honesty as the rest of us. I think you marginalize people with this disease when you say that “it is kind of a death”.

  • mairelena

    Two points: 1. to all you naysayers–a 70 something man does not mean the same thing when he says dating as a 30 or 40 something does… He doesn’t necessarily mean sex. Note that he says female companionship.
    2. Note that a caregiver who does not have the resources to hire help will probably not be able to avail them selves of “dating”.

  • Noelle Gray

    I am a 42-year-old woman with stage for breast cancer in the brain. I’ve had full brain radiation, I side effect of which is dementia. My husband, Michał, is 32 years old. Whether or not dementia becomes an issue I most certainly will meet my fate much sooner than later. I have a times discussed with my husband what he will do after I am gone. My desire for him of course is to find another person with whom he can share his life and have children. Sadly, the breast-cancer made me unable to have children. I told him that I am okay with him starting to date even before I am gone. Of course many of our friends think that this is crazy, but I want nothing but the best for him, and if that means that he find someone who can emotionally and physically and spiritually support him before I am gone, so be it.

    • Minou Barton

      Have you considered that what is best for him might be to man up and do what’s right by you until you’re in the ground/legally dead/gone?

      THEN he can take a whole man into the next relationship and be a man the next woman can look up to, respect, and trust to be a man of integrity. He’ll be a great catch for a *good* woman, not fair game for a desperate “I’ll take anything with pants and a paycheck” type.

      While it’s sweet you want what is best for him, please reconsider what “BEST” is and encourage him to be THAT man, not the sleaze who just couldn’t quite hold out for the funeral.

    • Dottie9

      Dear Noelle, I understand how you feel. Anyone who really loves another person does not want them to suffer because you yourself are suffering. So many of the people posting here are just spouting platitudes and not thinking with their their hearts. I wish you the best. You sound like you have a wonderful marriage and totally care for each other.

  • A disgruntled youth.

    I completely disagree with your guest and especially with his minister. The definition of right and wrong may potentially change due to extenuating circumstances in extreme situations. However, vows, contracts, and your word are things that should never be broken! It is never right to go against your word! “Til death do us part,” does not give license to find room to define death to suit your needs. Whether she is comatose, brain dead or has lost her mind does not mean she is physically dead, she is your wife until clinically dead. Having watched two of my grandparents go through the entirety of Alzheimer’s from diagnosis to death I cannot possibly conceive of anyone who is fully committed to their spouse justifying this without compromising their morals. No offense to your guest, I’m sure in his head this seemed justifiable, however I find it lacking completely in integrity and commitment when there have been those who’s spouses have been missing in action overseas for years with no word of their survival and yet they held on until death was confirmed or rescue enacted.

    • melovechocolate

      The guest took care of his wife through sickness and until death by hiring help. He did not abandon her.

      • A disgruntled youth

        He abandoned her on an emotional level. You swear to them to have and hold in sickness and in health, rich or poor until death parts you. That does not mean as long as they are physically taken care of that you can go off and be unfaithful emotionally or physically. This is just a corruption of morals and twisting of words to suit the situation. If your health insurance signed an agreement that said it covers every illness no matter what treatment and you can’t get dropped no matter the condition and no matter how many payments you miss and then they decided to drop you for someone else who was willing to pay more (aka give them something they want in that relationship) you’d sue them for breach of contract!

        • melovechocolate

          What? You clearly do not understand the disease. She was a different person towards the end. Emotions at that stage of the disease are not like your and mine. By the way, health insurance companies have different priorities than individuals, and they’re NOT based on love. FYI.

          • A disgruntled youth

            It’s called a hyperbole, FYI, and also a metaphor. To take it literally shows a grave misunderstanding of language. Yes, I do understand the disease, I watched two grandparents one of whom lived with my family struggle with it, I saw them change, I saw them become completely different people but to me they are still my grandparents. All people change over their lifetime, it’s a fact of life and I know it. When I married my wife I knew she would change from situation to situation. I joined the military before we were married and once we were she changed a bit, we both went from being naive youth who thought the world was always hunky dory to becoming more responsible and more aware of our actions and words having far reaching unintended consequences. I would say my wife is completely different from the person she was when we were dating and I love her just the same. You grow, you adapt, you maintain your integrity and never back down from a promise you made. She’s not the only person I’ve known who over my time knowing them has changed completely. My stepfather has bipolar, a completely different set of emotional ranges comes with that. He wasn’t symptomatic when my mother met him and although some days are a struggle she loves him the same despite constant challenges balancing medications for it and other illnesses. I was raised that the epitome is love is found in dedication and self sacrifice . Since you seem to be fairly religious then tell me, god said he would never leave you or forsake you… Does that mean if you have Alzheimer’s and are unable to comprehend that promise that he no longer will keep it?

          • melovechocolate

            An alzheimer’s victim stops recognizing loved ones and even rejects them. It is a difficult situation, and David and Mr. Garrett are/were both struggling with it. We are social animals and need love and affection, which alzheimer’s patients are unable to give. It doesn’t mean the caregivers stop loving them nor abandon them. On the one hand you have someone who is a different individual and has been consumed by alzheimer’s, on the other you have an individual who is able-bodied, is overwhelmed and alone. Promises or no, there comes a time to question what the “right” thing really is, and it may be different for you than me. The “promise” was made to a different person that is no longer present. As an able-bodied individual we have moral obligations, and that is why neither of these gentlemen abandon their wives, but need to continue living. In this case, the “right” thing is not for you nor I to decide, and some situations are exceptional.

          • Minou Barton

            “I am a social animal” sounds like a huge excuse for thinking with your genitalia instead of your honor.

            I am NOT an animal. I am a human being with choices, and I can choose to do hard things.

            Alternately, you can choose to do easy things and whinge around trying to get people to agree you are not quite as bad as you yourself suspect you might be.

          • sae

            These people sound like heartless trolls to me. They are saying “who is the same after a while?” but they are deliberately ignoring the fact that Alzheimer’s destroys the brain and thought processes. It’s not a change in personality people it’s a loss of all cognitive ability. They are being highly unfair.

          • Minou Barton

            So? Who IS the same person who got married after a few years?

            We ALL change, and our promise isn’t “so long as you’re within +/- 2 degrees of the person I *think* I married, in my estimation.”

            Just go ahead, get a divorce, and let everybody name you what you are. Don’t try to front sainthood while standing in a brothel (with your new “friend.”)

          • melovechocolate

            As a human social animal who can make choices, with faults (as you and everyone else who posts here, because as social animals we are imperfect), we need companionship. I never even mentioned getting a divorce in any of my postings. I am far from being a saint, and I don’t like brothels (but respect their right to exist). If you want to be self righteous and tell everyone the “right” way to live, I suspect you are not very happy, but whatever Minou. I still defend Mr. Garrett, and am happy for him that he found a companion without abandoning his wife. You have your opinion and I have mine. Ciao.

          • Minou Barton

            It’s possible to have friends and support without seeking a romantic partner. I wholeheartedly support that–and have helped support those in need of that kind of camaraderie, meals, midnight calls, etc.

            I wonder what lessons and growth Garrett missed by taking the easy way out and moving on before honor permitted? What a loss to him and to his family.

          • Bill

            You say that she was a different person towards the end, this confuses me. Isn’t that the whole idea behind the vow. Your partner will change for better or worse. Life is change. I am 64 and I guarantee you that I am not the person I was at 24 when I married my wife and neither is she. Yes there is absolutely devastating loss with Alzheimer’s. Loss for the caregiver that is soul crushing but how much more so for the person with Alzheimer’s or Pick’s disease. They lose their whole life, their whole world. I will never agree that it is OK to turn your back of your life partner because it is too hard for you.

  • StoryGal49er

    My husband had a massive stroke at age 41. I was 38. It was devastating. On that day we lost the husband and father that we had known. He lived for another 4 years. I struggled with loneliness and feelings of being abandoned for many years. At the time I questioned this idea all the time. We had been deeply in love, and the idea of being with someone else was difficult. But many days and nights I longed to be held, to be comforted and to laugh as only a friend and lover can encourage. I would never judge someone, who was in that position, provided that the person continued to provide primary care and loving support for their spouse or partner who has suffered in these ways.

  • David Terrenoire

    I’m 64 and the sole caregiver for my wife who has Alzheimer’s. Last year I was so lonely and, Like your guest, didn’t consider myself anyone’s husband. I stopped wearing my wedding ring, not to attract anyone, but because I felt like my marriage of 34 years was over.

    I did meet a young woman in this time and she made me feel like a complete human being again and may have saved my life in a very dark period.

    The complications deepen as my girlfriend is now pregnant and will have our daughter in May.

    At that time, I’ll have two people to take care of. It’s hard, my daughter is angry with me, but those closest to the situation understand how hard this care has been, and what a horrible loneliness I felt.

    I’ve since put my wedding band on, and I understand that I am my wife’s husband, just in a different role now than before.

    Life is complicated. All I can do is my best, and that’s what I’m doing.

    • Minou Barton

      So, your vows actually meant, “until I get lonely or don’t like how hard it can be?” Your NEW girlfriend must think you are a real man of integrity, who’ll stand by her no matter what. I suspect you’ll get what you asked for, in spades. At that point, you might find that loneliness was the better argument.

      (When did, “But I was LONELY!” become an adequate excuse to have sex outside of marriage?)

  • Kari

    When the question was initially posed I immediately said “NO! Absolutely not.” After listening to the interview, I am not sure. I don’t think anyone can presume to know what a care give goes through, even if they’ve been through a similar situation. We are all individuals, dealing in our own way. I don’t think one can/should make a moral judgement here.

  • Sage Aune

    I am currently experiencing my grandmother going through Alzheimer’s and I have since had many opinions of my own about what I personally would do if it were me. I agree with Jim Garrett that if he felt lonely he should do what he wants with the life he has to make it as happy as he wishes. My only criticism when listening to the discussion was that he mentioned if the wife approved of his decision to which he said she was already past the point of comprehension. I would ask wouldn’t this be something that they would’ve discussed before the disease took over and reach a decision together. Just so he would know if she truly would’ve approved or not. Instead of guessing. Again, can’t stress enough that I am in no way judging Jim’s decision, I was just curious as to why this maybe wasn’t talked about with his wife before the disease took over.
    My sincerest condolences and I applaud Jim for following his heart and for supporting his wife to the end. Stay strong.
    Peace.

  • Why

    Why did moderator pose question of whether it was “okay”? What does judgmental have to do with it?

    • Minou Barton

      I think the moderator was rightly intuiting that the average intelligent listener was going, “Ugggghhhhh,” and decided to give voice to it.

  • hilfigeritout

    With all respect intended, we are not here to judge and this sight has asked for our comments. This act of wanting something for yourself while your spouse is medically ill shows our societies neverending greed for self satisfaction which no longer conflicts our morals as most actions we do are done with the expectation of that of a click of the mouse. While your minister or whomever gave you the ok to go ahead and begin dating while still binded to your wife by law, should understand the readings are not meant to be manipulated for self gratification. Til death do you part should mean when she is gone from this earth. Is it ok then to begin dating if your wife has severe MS and is still alive? Is it ok to date if your spouse has life threating injuries due to a car crash and is in a comma. If there was a cure tomorrow and your wife was still alive and she was cured or symptoms dramatically reduced; what do you think your wife might say? How would you explain? These are things my mind would need to answer if I was in this decion…but then to me it is an easy decision. I married my wife for better or for worse

    • melovechocolate

      His wife was gone long before she passed. Let’s hope that you are not in the same position, when your long-standing beliefs are questioned.

    • Minou Barton

      I agree, and applaud your commitment.

  • Bill

    How can we be sure that this pre-death abandonment doesn’t compromise our care for our loved one? How many corners get cut that hasten the end of life in order to free the caregiver to pursue his or her own self interests. This is wrong in so many ways. Dividing your allegiances when your spouse needs you the most is shameful. The vow is “until death do us part” “I forsake all others” not “until you don’t notice anymore”

  • John Byrne Barry

    I can understand why some people would have trouble with a married person dating someone while his or her spouse has Alzheimer’s. But I would imagine that it would such a burden to care for someone who’s that far gone, and that if it was possible to have the support of someone new, well, that just seems enlightened and civilized. Even if it means facing disapproval from friends or family.

    • Minou Barton

      “Enlightened” and “civilized” are doublespeak for “immoral” and “relativistic” here.

      • John Byrne Barry

        Relativistic, OK. But immoral. Why do you consider it immoral?

        • Minou Barton

          Because it’s basically this guy saying, “Meh, it’s not working for me. But I want to look saintly, so I’ll stay married so nobody will accuse me of putting my wants above my marriage vows/my wife. I’ll just go after a little on the side.”

          It’s adultery if you’re in relationship outside your marriage, regardless of cause. And adultery is immoral.

          Yes, it’s a heartbreaking situation, and I feel for his loss and loneliness. But instead of looking for inner character and lessons to be learned and then shared in the form of a legacy, he chose to put his wants above everyone in his family.

          Not only did his kids lose their mother, they lost the dad they thought they had. Tragic.

  • Tracey

    I totally support the idea of the caregiver dating. When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimers, I told my mother that I didn’t want to lose two parents to this horrible disease, meaning she should take care of herself, and that’s what Dad would want too. She’s a very tough healthy lady and decided not to do that. Over the next 8 years, as my father went through violent stages, sleepless nights, and a very long goodbye in a nearby nursing home, Mom continued to devote herself to him. Her world became very small, she suffered some strokes, and a year after he died, she was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Three years later, it progressed to Alzheimers and I am now the primary caregiver(she’s in assisted living) sandwich generation and all. I am convinced that her lack of other social outlets contributed to her Alzheimers. I’ve always had a fantastic relationship with my parents, and they had 50 wonderful years together. But the impact of my mother’s Alzheimer’s on my brothers and me, until we got her into assisted living, was very difficult. I think if she had thought about that, she would have made different choices while my father was still alive. Thank goodness, we are all in a good place now, but again, I’m convinced much of it could have been avoided if she had had more social outlets.

    • Minou Barton

      Do you feel your mom set a good example of what “until death do us part” means? On how unconditional love is? I hope so. Whatever it cost her in terms of longevity and health, it didn’t cost her her integrity, her honor, her legacy.

  • supportgroupmember

    Why do obviously different people sign as “fishbuckle”?

  • Dottie9

    This was such an emotional discussion. I understand how some could never date because of their vows. However, I am a woman who has recently been diagnosed with mild cognitive disorder, which can but does not necessarily lead to Alzheimer’s. (My mother has late stage Alzheimer’s.) My husband and I have had a wonderful marriage — a lot of fun, a great family, two wonderful grandchildren. Life has treated well. I have always been true to my husband, and I believe he has always been true to me. He is my best friend and we still enjoy each others company immensely. When I heard this story, I totally believed Mr. Garrett did the right thing. And I would also approve of my husband dating when I no longer know who he is. (How could it hurt me? ) He has a right to a good life and loving companionship when I can no longer give it to him. I know God would agree with me. Interestingly, I’m thinking of two things: 1) a recent story about Alzheimer’s patients who develop new companions in the nursing home. This is being allowed (encouraged?) with the healthy partners knowledge. 2) Also a very emotional short story in New Yorker, I believe, of a man who has to put his wife in a nursing home because of dementia and sees her become “chummy” with one of the men in the nursing home. It could work both ways.

    God loves, he cares, and it’s never his wish to punish people.

    • Minou Barton

      Wow…you think God approves?

      • Dottie9

        Yes, I do.

        • Minou Barton

          Do you have any Scriptures to support that so I can read?

          • Daughter

            Why does something need Scriptures to be supported?

          • Minou Barton

            I think if you’re saying you know how Poe or Shakespeare would feel/respond to an issue, it is necessary to back that up with something they’ve written so others can read and understand. Don’t you?

  • Ginny DeHaan

    This story certainly caught my attention; my dad died 4 years ago after living with Alzheimer’s for 8 years. My mother would never have considered dating anyone while she took care of him; I can’t imagine it myself, either. They were married for more than 50 years and their vows were truly, in sickness and health and that included Alzheimer’s as a sickness. It was an unhappy situation; Alzheimer’s is a very cruel disease. But for them, it didn’t change their relationship at its basic core. My mother often said that “John always took care of me, now I really get to take care of him.” I understand Mr. Garret’s feelings of loneliness. I also admire his honesty and openness about how he wanted to address those feelings. But I would have been very sad for my father if my mother had dated while he was sitting in his chair, incapacitated. He wasn’t ‘himself’ at his worst with the disease, but he wasn’t ‘not himself,’ either.

  • supportgroupmember

    I agree with supporters of caregivers except in describing our loved family member as already gone. They may indeed still be in there on some level. As a matter of loving faith, we may continue to hold the hands of and talk to the the soul still in the person we love. Feeling and hearing are the last sensations to be lost, although the person can’t tell us what they are experiencing anymore.

    That said, I believe Mr Garrett and others who have affirmed that having loving support from another Helps them continue to show love to their spouse.

    Family members please be supportive.

    For (grown) children its a complicated dynamic, as “Stepparents” always are.
    Be open to understanding and discussion.

    • melovechocolate

      Everyone needs affection including the Alzheimer’s victim. definitely hold their hands and try and reach their soul. Great advice :)

      • Minou Barton

        Hands, yes.

        But we all know that’s not what’s on the table here.

    • Minou Barton

      “Loving support.”

      Wow. Doublespeak at its finest.

  • it_disqus

    …to have and to hold from this day forward (not till I get tired), for better or for worse (not till things go bad), for richer, for poorer (not till finances are tight), in sickness and in health (not till you get sick and I get tired of it), to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part (death). What “oath” did Jim take?

    • melovechocolate

      According to the Guinness book of world records, the US has the 3rd largest divorce rate after Maldives and Belarus–talk about a culture that doesn’t respect marriage..! Mr. Garrett, however, didn’t leave his wife without proper care. He looked after her until her death.

      • it_disqus

        Agree, but I watched my grandfather carry my grandmother from bed to bathroom to table to couch, etc. until his knees gave out. I guess my definition of commitment might be a little skewed. Jim’s grand-kids will not have that problem.

        • Minou Barton

          What did it make you think it_disqus? I imagine you were sad, but what else? I’m curious, since you have a story so opposite of this one.

          • it_disqus

            I’m not sure of your question. I have been taught what the commitment of marriage is, so this guy Jim trying rewrite it for his advantage meant nothing.

          • sae

            Are you actually married?

          • it_disqus

            Hey sae. Welcome to the conversation. Yes I am married. 18 years. My parents have been married 45 plus. All of my grandparents were married till death did them part. Why do you ask?

        • sae

          Troll

          • it_disqus

            You commented on a 2 month old comment to call me a troll? I posted the first comment. How is that a troll?

      • Minou Barton

        “Care” in the most clinical, minimalist sense possible, of course.

    • sae

      With today’s divorce rates, I really can’t imagine how someone would have the audacity to make a comment like this. He’s still taking care of her which is more than most divorcees can say.

      • it_disqus

        I agree in sentiment, but don’t ask people to forgive your oath of “till death do we part” till someone is in bad shape and doesn’t fulfill my needs. Re-writinging contracts after the fact is just crazy. If you don’t want to live up to the contract, don’t do it.

  • Carolyn

    If it is OK to strike up a romance when your wife has Alzheimer’s and can’t lead a normal life anymore, then is it also OK to strike up a romance after she has a stroke and is immobilized in a wheel chair, or after she has breast cancer and is no longer the same sexy person she was to you? Is it OK to leave her when she is about to die, as John Edwards left his wife for another younger, healthier woman? I’m sorry, but to me this man exhibits selfish behavior. Sure, maybe his wife didn’t know what was going on, but society does, and you are not showing respect for your wife in the eyes or your family and society when you abandon your spouse in a time of hardship. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What if you became sick? Would you like your wife carrying on with someone else since you are no longer the person you used to be
    ?

    • melovechocolate

      Different situations.

      • guest

        No different, and again, you have “principle” problems.

        • melovechocolate

          A woman after breast cancer who’s “no longer sexy” is absolutely no reason to abandon and look for another woman nor would it have even crossed my mind to deem it acceptable. Someone with a stroke can rehabilitate and lead a somewhat normal life. Different situations.

          • guest

            You’re wrong, again. But, we understand that principles mean nothing to you. Simple enough.

          • melovechocolate

            Anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. Yes, I get it.

          • Minou Barton

            LOL. Really?

          • melovechocolate

            Minou, it’s all about love. I love ya man.

          • Minou Barton

            Eh, she’s gonna kick the bucket soon, better get out my dancing shoes and check out the local bars so I don’t waste any more time on her.

            That’s roughly what it translates to. In both cases.

          • melovechocolate

            No, no. She needs love. We all need love. I love ya man.

      • Minou Barton

        Can you explain how? One wife is ill, not able to fulfill her roles up to the husband’s standards. The other wife is ill, not able to fulfill her roles up to the husband’s standards.

        • melovechocolate

          I will explain: I love ya man.

          • Minou Barton

            It sounds very sweet, but isn’t that really a dismissal, a refusal to parse the question?

          • melovechocolate

            Live and let live. And know that I love you.

          • Minou Barton

            As I thought. Good night!

          • melovechocolate

            Good night, love.

  • Al Naso

    My experience somewhat parallels that of Mr. Garrett with these variations:

    I took full care of my wife Fabi for at least six years with some help from my daughter. When Fabi’s condition became too difficult to safely continue my care for her, I was fortunate enough to be able to find a nursing home that would take her. Upon my return to my home without her—-the anguish was horrific and from that day I visited her daily for about three to four hours, feeding her her supper, cleaning her teeth, singing to her, and so many other things including making sure she was being properly cared for when I was not there. I continued this care to the end of her life for three years and was with her when she died. This nursing home period was also when I started dating.

    All the women I dated or had relationships with were wonderful people and true friends, some of them still are. During this entire time I felt no guilt about this and I never lost my love or sense of duty for my wife.

    Ultimately, five years after Fabi’s, death I met Gloria, with whom I was to be in a wonderful relationship with for fifteen years until finally happily marrying just two years ago.

    At my present age of 82, I consider myself an extremely fortunate man for my relationships with women, my children, brothers, all my Catholic in-laws, my two marriages, and to even have had the support of my colleagues.

    No one has ever told me I wronged Fabi and if they did, I would not care. Nor do I think she would, either. I remember her once telling me, “You could never live without love.” And I now know she was right.

    Al Naso

    • Minou Barton

      Thank you for your story. I understand why you did what you did…but that doesn’t mean you fulfilled your vows with integrity and honor, or that you are right.

      • Al Naso

        I more than completely fulfilled all my vows. I shamelessly told my story, mainly for the benefit of those who have been in or are in the same boat and could value my input. The entire experience I had has made me a stronger and more sensitive man and I am proud of the way I dealt with so many issues that were nearly overwhelming.

        Since you come from a completely different perspective, I think we might all find it interesting to know the true story of your life and what has been your personal experience with integrity and honor.

        Al

        • melovechocolate

          You are a good man, Al.

          • Al Naso

            Thank you. That is the finest complement any one could receive.
            Al

          • Minou Barton

            You wife is ill, but you’re dating.

            Define “good.”

          • Al Naso

            I repeat:

            More details Minou. Let us really see who YOU are in terms of
            integrity and honor. You might be an honest person, but if you have something to say, you have to reveal who you are and what you have done and explain how we can all benefit from your experience.

            Al

          • Al Naso

            Oh, I have been reading your other responses, which I see as valuable insights for people who are caregivers. Maybe the judgmental critics here are not a happy lot, and may possibly be wanting in personal experience. They seem unwilling to say anything concrete about themselves, but delight in attempting to put down those who do. This Here and Now segment was great and I felt it important to participate in the responses. Clearly, you are participating for the same reason. I wish you well.
            Al

          • Minou Barton

            Someone not being happy with your point of view does NOT equate with someone not being happy.

            Since you’re obliquely referring to me regarding personal info, I’ll answer directly: I did. Read.

          • Al Naso

            Yes, I have read your testimonial. My heart reaches out to you, and I am sorry that you have not been able to make the adjustments to life that I was able to make. I do not judge your way of dealing with the agony of your loss as being good or bad, but I also hope that you do not get solace through attacking the morality of others. I believe my experience offers more for those who suffer than your way, which I respect is right for you, but not for everyone. So let us stay civil. You must accept that others who are different from you are not necessarily evil doers, and I will do the same.

            Respectfully,
            Al

          • Minou Barton

            Ah. Me choosing to honor my vows and love my mate–no matter what–is now diagnosed as me “not being able to adjust.”

            Wow!

          • Al Naso

            Far be it for me to attack your sainthood. As for me–I have done no harm or wrong to my wife or family. I have not broken any vows or failed to fulfill my obligations. I am not in any way in need to defend myself. You must do what you must do, or not do what you must not do, so take comfort in yourself. But I hope that you do not get solace through attacking the morality of others, because that helps no one.

          • melovechocolate

            Likewise Al :)

        • Minou Barton

          Al, I have learned a great deal from my mistakes, namely and mostly what to call a mistake and what to call a mark of good character.

          Which are you saying that dating while your wife was still alive is?

          • Al Naso

            More details Minou. Let us really see who YOU are in terms of integrity and honor. You might be an honest person, but if you have something to say, you have to reveal who you are and what you have done and explain how we can all benefit from your experience.

            Al

  • Minou Barton

    I wonder…has anyone asked him how HE’d feel? I listened to the interview with great sadness and hoped he’d address those vows, his integrity, what “loving” looks like when you’re not completely focused on your own bellybutton. In his “me-ology,” his happiness–his moment’s pleasure–is worth more than what God says about it, more than his integrity, more than the example he sets his kids and grandkids, and more than the promises he made to his wife. And then he’s flummoxed when his kids aren’t over the moon happy for him? The pastor did him no favors with his diplomatic reply about “right and wrong,” (which, by-the-by, do NOT change when you use the right yardstick), likely thinking thinking to himself both that Garrett was a creep AND that at least he wasn’t adding lying to his list of sins. Yeesh.

  • what-to-do

    I think Jim pegged it perfectly when he said that his children’s desire to see him happy was in conflict with the loss of their mother. What he may not be saying is that this conflict began the moment he started dating while still married. My mother has had a disease similar to Alzheimers for almost 14 years now. My father has been her primary caretaker but fortunately there have been means to have almost full-time help in the home as she has progressed through this disease. To me, her daughter, my mother is still very much “with us”, even though I can clearly understand that to my father, she is not emotionally or spiritually able to be his wife in the normal sense. She has been unable to communicate for several years now and is approaching the end point. I understand that my father has had many years of being emotionally depressed, physically drained and terribly lonely as he has watched her drift away until the woman he married is no longer who she was and he is “alone”. And I have no problem with him seeking supportive companionship from a friend, male or female to help him through this time and give him support. But what I do have difficulty with was his need to seek a romantic companion prior to my mother’s (his wife’s) passing. The giving of his heart to another woman while my mother is still alive to me is a betrayal of her as a person. If the roles were reversed, I believe that the thought of dating someone else while still married to my father would never have entered her mind, let alone acted on. However, my father justifies his new relationship by saying that my mother has “left him” and that he is fulfilling his vows by continuing to care for her until she passes. To complicate the matter of how to accept this, it does not help hat he has been a Christian minister all his life? How do we make sense of all of this where we want our parents to be happy and we love them both but one set of choices seems to directly conflict with the other?

    • Minou Barton

      I’m so sorry for your losses, for you have lost much.

      Check out James 1:4…it applies to Christians, including your dad. He still needs you and is as little “himself” as your mom, just differently. I hope it won’t offend you if I promise to pray for you guys. What a mess!

      • what-to-do

        Thank you Minou for your kind thoughts.

  • Minou Barton

    Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.

    How sad for Garrett’s kids, to lose their mom and have their dad’s poor character revealed, all in one fell swoop.

  • melovechocolate

    Minou needs a little Kumbaya. Kumbaya Minou, kumbaya!

    • Mina

      Maybe you need some too — the way I see it Minou did nothing different than you did earlier in the day commenting on every comment. Sometimes less is more.

      • melovechocolate

        I thought it was the other way around..Anyway, Kumbaya Mina, Kumbaya!

    • Minou Barton

      Funny. Not as “loving” as you like to play, are you?

  • GoatGirl

    If you don’t think it’s right to seek companionship when the person you loved is biologically alive but otherwise gone, then don’t do it. For others, aging, alone, dealing with the emotional and financial stress that accompanies caring for a family member with dementia, finding a loving partner is a blessing. I thank god that my mother-in-law found Tom. He loved her until the day she died, and gave her a few years of joy after what had been a long miserable slog.

  • Rom

    Very interesting and fascinating discussion. I am 100% with Jim and I do not see anything wrong in what he did. Technically his wife was dead even though, her physical body is still functioning. There is nothing selfish about him dating another person. I wonder what would be the public reaction if one spouse starts dating when his or her spouse is physically incapacitated totally but functions normally on a mental level. Or if suffering from some other terminal disease but conscious enough to know what is going on. What Jim has done can be applied in this instance also? I would be curious to know what others on this discussion forum think.

    • Minou Barton

      You should hope that your “technically dead” doesn’t become a norm in society/government.

      You’re dead when your brainwaves stop.

  • Trish O’Brien

    My father died 28 years ago, and my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005. When Dad passed, we all acknowledged that if the situations had been reversed, Dad wouldn’t have lasted long without our Mother. Several years after her diagnosis, Mom acquired a “Gentleman Caller” in the same Assisted Living Community. He’s an appropriate escort to dinner, sends her flowers for her birthday, and while he can’t take the place of Dad, he’s made her happy, and has provided her with good companionship, and he has remained constant as Mom’s disease has progressed from Independent Living, to Assisted Living and now to Skilled Nursing Care. My siblings and I are grateful that she has found someone who gives her affection and fun. My father has been gone for a long time. It takes nothing away from our father – her Gentleman Friend just makes Mom happy. If her Alzheimer’s were not so advanced and they wanted to take the relationship further, we wouldn’t have objected. With advanced Alzheimer’s, it’s really true that this is no longer the person you married. The lifetime of memories and experiences you’ve built up are gone from one mind, wiped away as if they never existed – and they will not come back. It will just get worse until the patient dies. It’s the classic dilemma facing anyone who lost a spouse – you are still alive while your mate is gone, but with Alzheimer’s the person disappears gradually while they are still alive, and it only gets worse until death. If you can find someone to help you through this, take it. Anyone still alive deserves a chance at happiness.

    • Minou Barton

      Do i understand correctly that your dad was dead many years before this happened? Legally, actually dead and buried?

      How does this equate?

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    so whatever your situation look like just email the below address now.
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  • Eagle

    Loneliness does not negate commitment, nor does it make one forget right
    from wrong. Getting up in years also doesn’t allow someone to stop
    honoring their vows. His wife relied on him for care and support. He
    found an immoral cohort in the illegitimate pastor who said right and
    wrong change, and honesty never came into play. If the woman he dated
    was such a stand-up person, she would have told him to stay away from
    her, and go home and cook dinner for his wife.

  • Barry Petersen, author

    In the interview, Jim Garrett made reference to me -
    Barry Petersen – and the book I wrote about my wife, “Jan’s Story: Love Lost to the
    Long Goodbye of Alzheimer’s.” In my book, I discussed how I started a
    new relationship while Jan was still alive. Jan died last May. I am respectful
    of those who believe wedding vows are until death do us part. Jim asked the right question…when does a
    marriage die with Alzheimer’s? Answer – long before the body succumbs. And NO
    ONE I know who has gone through this in any way abandoned the person they
    loved. If anything, it helped them be better caregivers if only because it
    helped them survive. For those who are critical of Jim, I offer with all
    honesty this: you have obviously never been a caregiver for someone you love
    with Alzheimer’s. You have never spent your nights in terrible loneliness
    because the one person you shared everything with…is lost to Alzheimer’s. You have
    never lived the 36 hour day, and every caregiver knows exactly what that means.
    Nor have you dealt with the depression and tiredness that builds for years. For
    a caregiver, this disease is a one-way spiral into darkness without even
    knowing that you have lost your friends (who can go out? who comes to see you?)
    and your life (full time family caregivers cannot have a job). I never abandoned
    Jan, and I watched over her as a caregiver at home and then monitored her care
    in a facility until she died. But I also wanted one of us to survive this
    scourge of a disease. I did not want it to take me down as it did her, because
    that is often what happens to caregivers – many die before the person they are
    caring for. Some here posted about walking a mile in the shoes of a caregiver.
    I suggest you walk for the years we lived with this disease and what it took
    from us. And along the way, you will face the emptiness that slowly, surely,
    and with deadly effect saps one’s spirit and takes your own health away. I
    respect Jim…he chose life and going on. Trust me, that takes courage, and he
    has it.

    • Mina

      I will make this my last comment as I am not here to change your mind because what’s done is done. If the phrase “in sickness and health” was not enough of the part of your vows, and I understand not everyone says the same vows, another part of my wedding vow was “forsaking all others.” I did not take my wedding vows lightly and I will say it again as I said below, one of the greatest expressions of love is being there fully committed to your spouse in the most difficult of times. Not everyone shares the same kind of love and commitment, and not everyone is capable. But I offer this as something to think about if you are going to say those words or have said those words.

    • Guest

      Barry Petersen is right when he says walk for years we lived with the disease. I would so like to talk to him in person to discuss our unique situation.

  • Elizabeth_in_RI

    I send my condolences and best wishes to Mr. Garret. It is a tragedy what he and his family had to deal with. But it seems to me that Mr Garret has more than fulfilled his vow to take care of his wife. He stayed with her and cared for her. And it sounded as though he and his finance (who should be applauded for her role as well) made his wife the primary concern even after she could no longer care. Perhaps one of the best examples of the tolerance and flexibility we need to show when dealing with these neuro-degenerative diseases is that of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She retired in order to care for her husband as his Alzheimer’s advanced. When he forgot who she was and fell in love with another patient at the health care center he was living in Justice O’Connor graciously and courageously supported him and allowed him the joy of that relationship in his waning days despite the pain it must have caused her to see him loving another woman.
    I suspect that Mr Garret’s wife would have wanted him to have some happiness too. So as long as he wasn’t causing his wife any pain, I’m confident that the joy he had with his finance allowed him to better care for his wife.
    Thank you Here and Now for bringing this issue to our attention. Perhaps when the naysayers experience similar situations in their own lives this example will provide them some strength.

  • Sherri in Jonesboro, AR

    I am appalled that Jim felt it was right to “date” when his wife was diagnosed. Would he carry on an affair if she was diagnosed with cancer??? Same thing. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and shortly after she was diagnosed had a stroke and was bedfast for 7 years. My grandfather hired various people to live in and help but he was her primary care giver. He wouldn’t even go to church because he felt it was disrespectful to attend without her. For better or for worse. How is his new wife going to feel if she is diagnosed with an illness and she is cast aside for a healthier version??

  • orchap

    As someone that has observed a loved one (my deceased grandfather) I can say that I support Jim’s decision to seek consul with a member of the opposite sex.

    Although my grandfather’s case was unique (widowed by his first wife due to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his 2nd to dementia, and his third to alzheimers) he did what he could to maintain sanity. Eventually my grandfather became involved with his high school sweetheart prior to his third wife’s passage. The look on his face months later was that of a happy, spirited man, with his future in front of her. Unfortunately he died from cancer, before he and his new wife (former high school sweetheart) could enjoy more years together.

    I cannot fault Jim for moving on from his spouse to date and marry again. I feel that until you experience someone’s pain, you cannot judge. I believe being married to someone decaying from an incurable disease is not the same as falling out of love with a healthy partner or one that has an optimistic path towards healing their defects.

    Just my two cents.

    My two cents.

  • Karen

    I remember the interviews done by Sandra O”Connor as she watched her husband with Alzheimer’s show interest in another woman. Sandra Day O’Connor had incredible dignity and understanding, her husband was not dead but different and she allowed him to be the different person he had become. I don’t believe this stopped her from her commitment.

    • Minou Barton

      That’s a little different. He was cognitively impaired. She, however, was in full control of her considerable mind, and chose to honor her commitment to him even though he was showing himself no longer medically or mentally capable of doing the same. I like her even more now.

      • Karen

        Yes I agree that it isn’t exactly the same but I can’t help but see a universal answer of love in the gesture.
        I don’t believe it was easy for her- for them..none of this is easy though.

  • Susan

    A fact of Alzheimer’s is that no one knows what the patient knows or understands at any given moment. My mother had Alzheimer’s and my dad had a mild form of vascular dementia. After 60 years of marriage they resided for 4 years together in a nursing home. For the last year of her life my mother did not speak. Yet 5 1/2 months after my father passed away, during the week of their wedding anniversary, the nurse told me that when she asked my mother why she was crying my mother shocked the nurse when she replied in a clear voice “I miss Fred”. She passed away three days later. I visited my parents almost every day during those 4 years and saw many families dealing with the grief of Alzheimer’s. I also saw patients who had been abandoned by their spouses. No one is a winner in this awful disease. It takes its toll on everyone, but I truly believe the patient deserves as much support as possible because every once in a while they will respond in a way that you wonder what they may or not know.

  • Ben

    A committed relationship implies that each individual commits or vests 100% of themselves to the relationship. The betrayal of cheating on your partner is not the physical act of being with another person, but, the emotional commitment made to the person you are cheating with, regardless of how brief it may be for, that was already committed to your partner and given to someone else. Since Jim Garrett’s wife was no longer here in any real sense of the word, the ethical dilemma is not whether Jim was wronging his wife, his kids, or the institution of marriage by dating, but that he was wronging Becky Wells by initiating a romantic relationship at a time in which he was incapable of committing 100% of himself to her since a big part of himself was still committed to his wife. The fact that Becky accepted it, doesn’t make it less wrong. The fact that this wasn’t mentioned or considered is disturbing, however.

  • Guest

    Everyone has an opinion about this subject. I’m dating a wonderful man who has a wonderful wife and beautiful children. His wife has Alzheimers and the children are preteen ages. We are primary caregivers for her as a team. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for her that I wouldn’t do as well. Some people don’t understand but unless you are living it I don’t think you can

  • Guest

    I am dealing with this as I read this! I am 58yrs old my husband has had alhemizers since 2006. I have him in a home for 2yrs now and I am so lonely and lost. Would love to find someone whom I could have a relationship with but understand that I have a husband whom I love and adore but is not there for me in anyway shape or form. I would love to hear from other lost spouses on how to deal with this guilt yet know they need someone to love and hold and cry on their shoulder!

    • Guest

      Well I’m the guest that is dating so done whose wife has alzheimers. I am supporting him and his children during this difficult time and I’m taking care of her just as much as he is. I think you should find someone to have a relationship and understand what you are going through. It’s not easy and everyday is a struggle for us but I know how much I am doing for all of them it just feels right. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t do everything in my power to help all of them. I wish you the best down this long road.

  • guest

    Watch the movie, “The Notebook” and you’ll see what it means to “have and to hold, in sickness and in health, til death do us part”. Part of the package is your luck of the draw. If you know that losing one’s mind is a condition that terminates the spousal relationship, then do not promise during the marriage ceremony to wait for death to part ways.
    For those who do not share the same viewpoint, it is pointless to respond with “don’t judge”. Of course we judge- an opinion on behavior is a form of judgment.

    NPR was not impartial when airing the show with only one side of the issue represented, the pro-”move on with my life because my living wife is gone with Alzheimer’s.” That was more disappointing than the perspective on the issue.

  • Frog

    From Tues NY Times. It is worth the read:

    Sharp Truths Only Fiction Can Tell

    “…they give vent to the rage and selfishness that are not just felt but sometimes acted out in silly and spiteful ways — yet are described here without shame. I pushed my mother’s wheelchair onto the lawn of the nursing home, even when she didn’t want to go, because I couldn’t stand another minute indoors and I had all the power. Once, she even cried to go back inside; I pretended not to notice.”

    http://tinyurl.com/nmdc9gt

  • Jimbino

    There’s so much PC nonsense promulgated in this post. First, “till death do us part” vow bit is NOT part of marriage. Nor are sex, love, companionship, friendship, cohabitation and so on. Indeed, two people can be legally married just by showing up together for the first and last time at the JP.

    Second, it’s totally barfsville when people say “congratulations” when hearing that a perfectly good relationship ended up in marriage. Why not “congratulations” for finally dumping an ugly bitch?

    The problem that Jim Garrett had with approval from his two boys is just another argument against breeding.

  • Francis 714

    Thank you for doing this story. I have said more good byes in the 8 years since my wife’s diagnosis that I could never have imagined existed. The cruelties this disease makes the survivor suffer are unimaginable. I have had to watch as my wife forgot how to drive toread and talk and walk and toilet and kiss me and my name and soon to breathe. I love my wife more than I know how.i also know that falling in love with another does not dishonor her, in fact it celebrates our love. By loving I continue to add to the love in the world. I am a better caretaker, husband, father, man, and human. I have not violated any vow. The vessel I pledged undying love and affection and support still exists. The entity no longer occupies space and is deceased. When you walk in my shoes judge me. Until then get out of my way I’m too busy caring and living to listen to you and your uninformed opinion.

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