My wife and I have been married for almost 21 years. We are 15 years apart in age, I am 59 and she is 74 as of last month. Age was never a problem between us and honestly my wife was one of those people who looked and acted much younger than she was. She was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia a little over 5 years ago but had been showing symptoms 2-3 years before that. In the beginning the situation was complicated by the fact that my dad was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's. He was in assisted living and later memory care until he died in his sleep in early 2014. As I promised her I would, I have cared for my wife myself until 5 months ago when it became clear that it was beyond my abilities to care for her adequately. She is now in memory-care in an out of town skilled nursing home (1.5 hours away) where her daughter is Director Of Rehabilitation. By placing her there, she see's one daughter multiple times a day, her other daughter (who is an RN) see's her three or four times a week and I also commute 3 days a week and spend several hours there with her. That way the girls as well as the grand kids can see her often. I am retired so I can commute easily. Had I placed her here close to our home I would be able to go but the girl's jobs would not allow them to visit nearly as much. I pay for her care 100% out of pocket.

She has progressed steadily the last couple of years and has lost most of her motor skills as well as control of her bodily functions. She has not recognized the kids or grand kids for a couple of years and she now no longer seems sure who I am. She has not been able to really talk or retain any of a conversation for a year or more. Her emotions are constantly changing, laughing then suddenly crying and sort of gibbering for lack of a better term. Sometimes she appears to be seeing people who are not there also. She colors in coloring books, snuggles a baby doll most of the day now. When I try to talk she seems totally disconnected to what I am saying so most days I just sit and hold her hand or help her eat her meals.

My problem is that I have been caring for one or two dementia patients for 12 years. Intimacy with my wife ended years ago because she no longer seemed to understand what was happening. Have not been to the movies or had a vacation in years. I have spent weeks with little conversation, could not really enjoy a hobby or visit with friends. For the last 5 months I do everything alone including eating, taking my walks, watching TV etc. I do not plan to abandon my wife nor do I plan to change my visitation habits or stop paying for her care but I am lonely, bored and concerned for my own well being. For my own health both physically and mentally I think it is time that I make an effort to get my life back and try to find a compatible female companion who I can discreetly spend some time with, but I have some guilt issues to deal with. I was hoping to find out how others deal with this situation ?

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JDP, I have no problem with your seeking out female companionship. But first, I would simply cut back visits to every other week or once a month. Rest, exercise, read some books go to the movies. Join a professional or communal or religious organization. Just take some time to find out who YOU are after all this time. Be well.
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You describe your situation very well. You are luck in many respects to have your wife in care and being looked after so well with loving and caring daughters. I'm 60, also retired but wife and I are well so I don't share you experience but I'm sympathic to your situation.

My Mom is losing my Dad to dementia. She misses the OLD husband so much. Its very difficult for her. Given you wife's advanced state it's hard to say what benefit, if any, she gets when you visit. I can understand your feelings of obligation but I don't think you should feel bad if you cut back a little on visits. Take some more time for yourself.

Yes, have a relationship with someone else. It's quite common for people in your situation. It can be healthy, quiet and discreet.
Helpful Answer (6)

JDP, if you are unsure what to do, try this on for size.... what if the roles were reversed.... that it was your wife living at home and you in a nursing facility. Would you want to wife to seek out male companionship?

In today's world it is almost impossible to "date" someone without someone finding out.

My boss's wife had Alzheimer's for 15 years, so he filled those empty moments in her final stages by chumming around with his male friends.... golf once a week, lunch out several times a week, movie once a week by himself, helping out with political rallies, etc. He just couldn't "date" as it wouldn't be fair to the women he would date.... holidays and birthdays were spent with his wife and her grown children, thus he didn't want to have a lady on the side who he would abandon on those days.

Thus, take everything into consideration.
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You've already had good advice; I would only add that your devotion to and consideration for your wife and her family is truly admirable.

I think a safe way to meet women, and perhaps other men just for social purposes (to expand your social group) is to find groups that focus on your interests. Even if there aren't a lot of women, just communicating with men who share similar experiences might be helpful, as you gradually find women who share your interests.

What are those interests? Your post is very articulate. Are you a reader? What are your hobbies?

Some suggestions are (a) caregiver support groups as a kind of temporary and interim means to socialize (b) book clubs, hobby clubs (woodworking, metalworking, etc.) (c) gardening clubs (lots of women there!).

Check with libraries in your area. They often sponsor groups like this.

You could also take an adult ed class in a subject that interests you, something you've always wanted to explore but haven't had the time.

Another possibility if you're a former manager (and I kind of suspect you are), is to participate for awhile in SCORE. It isn't necessarily a way to meet women, but you never know - you might meet an aspiring small business entrepreneuress.

So do an assessment of what your interests are, search online and find local groups, and start testing them. I wouldn't join without going to a few meetings, as sometimes groups can be snobbish or cliquish.

One of the benefits of group interaction is that you become acquainted with people on a social, but not personal level. Going out for coffee after a meeting isn't really discreet because you're out in the open, but it's also non-committal and nonjudgmental because of the common interests.
Helpful Answer (5)

JDP: I'm not really in a position to give you advice so please take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I would strongly encourage you to slowly reengage with society. All those years of caring for demented people has probably changed you in ways you are not even aware of. How you talk with "normal" people and interact with them is going to be very different than how you have with the demented.
Take your time, go slow and enjoy your reengagement with society. Don't set yourself up for failure. You've given alot and you deserve success! Good Luck!
Helpful Answer (5)

JDP, then there are cases of younger onset that frequently happen when couples close to the same age, in their 50's. Even then most spouse caregivers have to relinquish the care to a facility for a variety of reasons. I have a friend, just turned 60, his wife was diagnosed at the age of 54, five years ago. He does what you are doing now, visiting her two or three times a week. She no longer knows who he is, but knows she likes him. He has a group of men in similar circumstances they get together for lunch once a week, he goes to movies with friends, coffee shop music programs by local artists. I don't know how he has the energy to do all he does.

What would your wife want you to do? I suspect most would want their spouses to get on with their lives and enjoy themselves. In your case I would think this would be especially true if for no other reason than the age difference. Did you and your wife ever talk about what if something like this happens?

You might want to check the Alzheimer's Association to see if there is a "Men's Only" support group. We have one here. I am sure that there are many caregivers, male or female that struggle with the same issue.

Another way to look at it is admitting to yourself that your wife was taken, ie ,left, you long ago. She is not that person you married.

Find groups that interest you that is the best way to meet someone, IMHO. Take care of you. Have you seen an attorney to straighten out the finances, POA's , livingg will? You do not become insolvent as a result of paying for your wife's care. There are ways to to protect you.
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I think it's time for you to reclaim your life. You've been a wonderful husband and by cutting down your visits to your wife, you can start to take time for yourself. I agree with both Windyridge and Babalou's suggestions. I'd add that there's a wonderful movie from 2005 with a plot line somewhat similar to yours. It's Away from Her with Julie Christie. You might see if you can rent it.

Depending on where you live, you might find a good MeetUp group is a way to reengage with others in your area. Go to their website and see what kind of groups exist where you live. Good luck and please keep us posted on how you're doing.
Helpful Answer (3)

Another thought (this always seems to happen immediately after I click "post"):

volunteer work; if you have building skills, there's Habitat for Humanity and Christmas in Action. Local food pantries need volunteer help; there are also the Salvation Army, Grace Centers for Hope, and of course the American Red Cross.

You don't have to commit for a long time; check out the group and see if you like the interaction.

One thing about volunteer work is that it helps restore some of the emotional fatigue created by caring for someone on a long term basis. You're still helping, but it's not a situation where people are generally in physical or mental decline.

There also are walking groups: mall walkers, hikers, etc.
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Maybe it makes more sense to just reengage with people in group activities initially to see where things go. As someone gets to know you, you can explain your situation and if they're interested in you, they can let you know.

I would think just getting out and around others (men and women) doing what you enjoy would be a good start. Maybe trying to jump into a one-on-one with a woman right off the bat is a bridge too far to cross right now. Ease into it. Or find someone who isn't a Southern Baptist or who is in a similar situation.
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Yep had that same thing, as she began to lose who the kids were she retained me pretty good, I suspect because I was always there. Later though she was not sure who I was but new I was always there and took care of her. Now if she acknowledges that I am there she will call me daddy and smile, I just play along.

For sure she would want me to get on with life, but take care of her also which is what I plan to do. I think it is hard for people to see that at some point she has progressed to a point that I just do not have the ability to provide the care she needs.

Yes my wife and the kids mom as we really knew her has pretty much faded away, we have all discussed that and accept that. You really have to cross that bridge before you can start making the decisions that come during the later stages.

Oh yeah the POA's, will's etc. for us both are done. I also have a really good Long Term Care policy on me so the kids do not have to deal with this should I end up in the same situation, and family history says I might. I have done well as a business owner and the $$ part I can handle. Not having to stress over that made a big difference and was the reason I could stay home and care for her myself. My wife worked with me years before we were married and continued years after. We literally were with each other 24 hours a day then. For some that might be a problem, for us never a problem.

I really appreciate all the kind words and help.
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