My wife of 34 years with Alzheimer's disease now has told me that we are not married and she isn't sure who I really am. Is this the beginning of the end?

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My wife of 34 years with AD now has told me that we are not married and she isn't sure who I really am. We have lived in the same home for 33 years and all of her belonging and favorite things are here but seem to make no difference. Any conversations about it with me or our family only seems to make it worse. From this site I read that it happens but still it is heart breaking knowing there is very little I can do. Rich

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I'm so sorry about your wife. It's a terrible thing to lose one's brain, and if she were in her right mind she would be devastated to know that she's hurt you this way. Let it roll off you like water and be thankful you had as many years as you did with her. I also think it's important that you get yourself out of the house on a regular basis if possible. Find something that you like to do that's away from the circumstances for your own mental health. Otherwise this will drag you down to the depths, and you may not want to get back out.
Rich, I cannot directly relate only because it was my Mother whom I cared for. Nonetheless, I watched the same thing occur between her and her husband... and Mom, not knowing who I was, a related experience. There is no going around it, it is especially heartbreaking for a long time mate.

As difficult as it is, I encourage you to hour by hour endeavor to wholly accept the reality that she simply cannot help herself. It is a constant process. Likely except for perhaps fleeting moments of recognition, you and everyone else will only continue to demoralize yourself if your priority is focused on trying to get her to come back toward reason. It won't happen because through no fault of her own, her brain cells simply do not function as they once did.

From another perspective, briefly look at things as if your roles in life had changed. Know the heartache you'd have if while in the midst of the disease you were able to capture an awareness of what you were putting her through. Also know though, the love she'd still maintain for you.

Rich, sometimes recapturing an understanding of the long time love you've shared helps in such a moment as this. And know that if she could gain the awareness of where she now mentally resides, she'd surely even now cry with you and strive to comfort you. As you now do for her.

With my Mom, I discovered if I took time to journal those infrequent moments of levity she and I experienced, then during quiet moments I'd re-read my writings and gain a smile. These promptings would also help me remember instances in the past... which would also help me smile. Making life a bit easier.

Rich, you can't count on your wife to any longer maintain the ability to reason. But, and this is very important, by endeavoring to lift her positive emotional content you'll bring her life experience toward ever escalating peace with you... and surely a deeper love for you, as well.

Who knows, but this 'new' person you are nurturing toward peace and happiness, even joy in life will in time recognize you as being a wonderful 'new' person in her life... and want to marry you. That, because her entire being is so dearly responding to the love you are providing her. (It quite often happened to me... just like that. Thankfully, Mom always asked me to marry her in private, my Step Dad never hearing.)

My best to you, Rich,

I just left my moms house after spending the day with her and my dad.She is the same way with my dad and he was having a very hard time handling her today, which makes it hard for me to see them both going through this. Just remember she is still in there and her love for you will be one of the last things to go. I always come to this site when I am especially sad about her life as it is now. There is always something here that helps me. I do know that you both do need time apart. My experience had been that it is just as good for them, for mom to go out with me for awhile so my dad has alone time at home as well. She seems a little better after being away from home too. Hopefully you have someone that could do that for you.
My grandfather did a similar thing with my grandmother. He didn't think they were married or even had kids. I know this had to have broke her heart. And when I asked her about how this made her feel, she said she knew in her heart that he still loved her and knew they were married. It was the Alz. that is talking not him. And that was what got her through it all was knowing that before this all started he loved her and were happily married. And she now needed to care for him even if he only thought of her as his caregiver. In your wife's mind she might not know you anymore. So don't push the subject just let her get to know you all over again, let her know your the best friend she will ever have and you will always be there for her. I just hope you have someone you can lean on and talk to when this gets to be too much.
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I want to explain, in short my experience on this issue, I feel the details are important so please bare with me. I was caring for my Mom at my home after she had been released from a behavioral health unit in hospital due to wandering and mental health concerns needing 24/7 care... she was diagnosed with cognative impairment dementia and stabalized with meds. She became my first priority. At the begining she was always clear of who I was. Then slowly she started saying things like... she didn't like me and I was trying to poison her she wouldn't eat her lunch that I left for the aid to feed her if she knew I prepared it. Then she wouldn't want to get in the car with me or go in the house with me. Naturally I called her Mom, she would say I'm not your mother stop saying that. This behavior lead to her admittance to a behavioral health geriatric unit in a mental hospital once again (1 year after 1st time). I could not care for her so I had no other choice and her Doctor recommended it for both of our safety, that she be admitted again. I did not visit hopeing this would help in her behavior towards me. This is a 30 day process(well that is all Insurance allows)NJ state law requires a hearing in order for her to stay as an inpatient in another unit at the same hospital. The court needs to decide if she can stay or be released. To make a long story short she was admitted as inpatient at her own will because she refused in front of court my help and asked to stay. Which in turn ended up being the best thing, she slowly got more stable and started to be more herself and knowing me again, although I knew this was going to be an ongoing issue if she was to return home and I could not provide the routine needed and 24/7 care to keep her stable. So I needed to find long term care on a perm. basis in order for her release from there. So she is now in nursing home and getting the care that is best. I see her quite often, NH is close to my home. Luckily for the staff and myself, she somehow excepts her new reality and has conformed to the situation without too much fuss. In her mind she works there and "home" is her room. I approach the whole thing with an open mind not only towards her but the staff as well. A visit is always a mystery of how she reacts to me. I go different times of the day and found at certain times she is happy to see me and I am her daughter other times she is not happy with me and tells me to go away, So I go. On Christmas Eve she gave me the gift of love for a fleeting moment.... I gave her the cutest stuffed "Snow Woman" ..and asked her just the same as she did when she gave me a stuffed animal as a child "What are you going to name her?" With the biggest smile she said " my name" and then she said "thats perfect for her she's so cute!" I am not quite sure if she said my name because it is "my name" or even if she knew why "my name" came out of her mouth, all I knew was a part of me was still with her whether the bond is expressed consciously or not. This all taught me alot, there are triggers for negative behavior as well as positive. I also believe that if she believes she is in control of herself and her own reality there is less stress on her than if she has to conform to true reality. Stabalizing surroundings and routine on a daily basis is less stressful. Music is magic as well, if you can sing a song or play music from past memmories this may light a spark. I really hope my experience can help others and bring some light in a cloudy situation.
I'm so sorry, Rich. It's very difficult.
Does she feel this way all the time? My mom fluctuates in her cognition, but that may be because of her type of dementia. She often awakens not knowing who Dad or I are, but will gradually move into another mindset. She seems to move into another mindset more quickly if we don't challenge her delusions, but instead say things like, "Oh, well, I guess I don't have it right," and try to talk about something else. Sometimes she can be distracted with another topic.....sometimes not. Do take care of yourself, Rich, as others have mentioned. Sorry for this painful experience.
I am sorry for everybody out there whose elder does not recognize you----that must be so painful to experience. I have heard about a case where the wife ( with Alzheimer's) accuses her husband of having affairs behind her back. The husband has had to cut back drastically on his visits to see her because it was just too painful for him. My father has dementia, but he still knows who I am, and has not accused me of stealing from him, but I can only imagine how terribly hard that would be. I sympathize with you all, who are going through this. God bless you. If it's any help at all, just try to always see the "mind disease" when you are interacting with your loved one who has Alz., and (sad as it is to say this) not the person you remember. And at the same time, remember that the "person" is still in there, buried deep down within. I have heard many stories where an Alz. patient, at the moment just before death, "awakens" in terms of mental clarity, and looks at loved ones with recognition just before passing.
I know firsthand what this feels like. My husband is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's. He doesn't know that we are married or that I am his wife. It is heartbreaking because we have been together for 17 years and had so many memories of our ilfe together that now have vanished for him. I will sit with him and put my hand next to his and ask him what he's wearing on his left hand and he will answer "a wedding ring" and then I'll show him my wedding ring and I will gently remind him that we are married. Or we'll sit and go through wedding photos together. I agree with many other posts. This disease is devastating. If your wife knew what she had said or that she had hurt you it would be devastating to her. I know it would be the same wtih my husband who actually planned our wedding. It was such a special day for us.
Rich, Take comfort that you are not alone on this journey. There are many spouses who are walking alongside you. My parents have lived here with us for 12 years now. Mother has ALZ and does not know that they are married. For my Father, who has loved her dearly, it breaks his heart. Next week they will celebrate their 54th anniversary! I wish I could show young people what REAL love looks like...caring for someone who doesn't remember you!!! What a precious love you share with your darling wife. God bless you. Helpful hints: 1. Get a copy of "Creating Moments of Joy" 2. Call her by her first name. 3. Do not make physical approaches unless you are sure she knows who you are.
Rich, I cannot and will not try to give you advice. But, I do understand some of what you are feeling. My wife of 37 years is 59 years old and began having memory problems 10 years ago. She has been living at an Alzheimer's care home since Oct. 2010. She knows me only as Billy, not as her husband. It is as if I am both married and not married at the same time. She is OK with me being her boyfriend, but emphatically says "No!!" if I ask her if she wants to be married to me. I visit her every day and she loves to see me, but seems to forget me soon. I feel anger (not at her,at her condition & sometimes at God for letting this happens and not stopping it), sadness, some depression, some joy when I visit her, a great sense of loss for her as well as myself (life is not supposed to be this way, right?). I have no answers for you. I'm still searching for answers. There may be none, or there may be some. I hope you find answers and some peace of mind. I understand it is very difficult. I would never minimize the difficulties being experienced by people who have parents with Alzheimer's, but I do know that when it is our wife it is a much much different and more difficult situation than anyone can imagine. I wish you the best, strength and courage. I do understand more than you might think. Bill

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