My wife died from Alzheimer's disease in 2012. I am in a new relationship with a woman who has been diagnosed with dementia. Any advice?


I am an 84 year old man. I took care of my wife for years in our home. A year later I met a woman, we fell in love and were in a relationship four 4 years. She fell in Sept., 2017 and damaged her brain. She moved into a rehab facility and fell 2 more times and did additional damage to her brain. They then diagnosed her as having dementia. I spent every day all day with her until her daughter decided to move her to a facility 100 miles from her home and my home. She moved her Dec. 2, 2017. I have visited her once a week by having friends and family drive me there to see her. I call her every day and try to talk to her. When I see her it breaks my heart and tears me up emotionally and mentally and physically. Sometimes she knows me and other times not so. She can't do anything for herself, even walk. It also brings back memories of my wife of 58 years. It takes me several days to recover from my visits. I keep asking myself how much longer I can continue to do this. I still love my girl friend just as much as in the past. My family and friends have told me to let go and get a life for myself. I feel like I would be deserting her. I have tried to do that but haven't been able to at this point. Maybe someone could give me some advice contrary to what I have received in the past. I do realize I must do something different, but what is the question. Thanks, Charles

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Well, Charles, abandoning your good friend and soulmate is not a step in the right direction, in my opinion. I assume the daughter moved her closer to the daughter's home, which makes sense but in this case had unfortunate consequences.

Can you continue the daily phone calls? Are you on good terms with the daughter? Could you get updates from her once a week or so?

Can you continue the visits, perhaps every two weeks? I certainly can understand why visiting her upsets you. I have a feeling not visiting her would be upsetting, too.

People whose loved ones have dementia experience anticipatory grief. You are losing this dear women one memory at a time. You are in mourning as well as remembering your wife's dementia journey.

People mourn in their own ways. It has only been a little over 3 months that your loved one has been moved away from your daily visits. I personally think it is very unrealistic to expect you to "let go and get a life." Did they expect you to do this while your wife was still alive?

There is a time to mourn, and a time to dance. I just don't think this is your dancing season. At your age you may have a decade or more to dance. Keep yourself healthy, physically and emotionally. Gradually, as you feel up to it, start re-building a life for yourself. It will be very different than your current situation, or the life you had when she was well. But it can be a satisfying life.

I respect that you are mourning, and that is a perfectly legitimate thing for you to do. And yet she is still alive, which makes the situation more complicated. Please don't do anything that will make you feel you are deserting her, for your own sake. After visiting her everyday you don't deserve to feel that you are letting her down.

I lost my husband to dementia, and I know a little about anticipatory grief. One way that it is different from grief after a death is the lack of community support. Once my husband died I got cards and letters and flowers and meals from my friends and family. They understood mourning after death and did the traditional things to comfort me.

You are not only without conventional support in your mourning, you have people telling you how to feel and to "get a life." Right now your life includes grief. It won't forever, but I think you have to recognize it while it is happening.

How lucky you've been to have had two wonderful women in your life!
Helpful Answer (25)

Hello Charles :)

Firstly sorry for your loss.

Right! Don't feel bad you cannot visit as much as you like. Sorry to say, there is not a lot you can do. Her daughter has all the rights for her mum.

The only thing I can suggest you do, and only if you want to, is to do some hospice or hospital visits in your area. This will help make you feel closer (by proxy)

Try and cut down your physical visits to her. Like you said, she does not always know who you are. Stick to the phone and take care of yourself.

Write to her. Make sure you send them. A member of staff can read them to her, if she is unable.

I send you loads of love and hugs. Take care.
Helpful Answer (13)

I'm so sorry to hear about your wife and then your girlfriend. It must be unimaginably painful. Life seems so unfair at times. Both ladies are lucky to have had you in their lives. It's no wonder you are still grieving, if your girlfriend is not able to communicate or think the way she used to. I'd take my time adjusting to the new reality and not let other's words influence me at all. As long as you are up to the visits and calls and it doesn't make you too sad, I'd continue. I know that I used to visit much more when my LO recognized me and her face lit up when she saw me, but, I still visit because I feel the need. It's sadder now, but, I feel it has purpose and meaning for me, even though, she may not know I'm there. Take care of yourself and please post with how you are doing.
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I have re-read my reply and am sorry it seems a bit too hard too.

I meant no offence and would not want to upset you, for the world.

If I have done I am sooooooooo sorry. Please ignore this silly old fool, whos mouth runs away. Seems my mouth is on automatic before my brain kicks in.

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You are a wonderful kind man Charles. I am sorry for your losses. Many of us live many lifetimes in one life. You are so lucky to have had a marriage partner lasting 58 years. You are lucky to have found love again. Please be kind to yourself. We seed, grow, blossom and wilt. It's just life as nature intended. I agree with the writers about you joining a senior group. It would help. Visit when you can, but be kind first to you.
Bless your lovely soul.
Helpful Answer (6)

Oh Chrales, this is so difficult! That poor lady, and your poor heart. I disagree that you would be ‘abandoning’ her in any way. I think the letters (or greeting cards, bright and sunny) would be a great way to keep in touch, then just go when you feel you have the energy to give. Please look for support group near you, just for now! It might be really helpful and life affirming to share who you are and how much you care with others with similar experiences. Bless you for being so caring.
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A bereavement support group may be helpful. You have lost someone dear to you once and now facing another loss. These groups are run by local hospitals, senior centers and also VNA Hospice.. The people in the support group will share how they have coped with loss as well as befriend you. The groups meet on a regular basis which will give you something for which you can plan. Also your local senior center may be a good place to socialize and ameliorate loneliness.
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Dear One,
Do what’s in your heart and be gentle with yourself. It’s a beautiful thing you are doing. Cherish the memories. Gradually you will know what steps to take as your love moves through her life phases, and the time will come when you know to let go. You are grieving. Please find a support group. Make the phone calls to the lady you love, send flowers and take good care of yourself by planning and moving forward with your life so it can be fulfilling for you.
Helpful Answer (3)

You are in a sad situation. Once again you are losing a loved one. And I can tell from your post that you are a loving person that cherishes your relationships. Your love will not allow you to just "let go." How can you let go without losing the relationship which you honor and which is so important to you?! I think you are concerned about the draining effort to physically maintain your relationship. Your friends and family advise you to "get a life for yourself." You have that already. Your life is yours--and is only more valuable when you share it with other people that you love. I think you do need to take care of yourself. What is the best way to keep your relationship alive without overwhelming your own resources of energy and good faith? Have you discussed your relationship with your "girl friend's" daughter? Would it make you feel better to have your love shared with another person who also loves the same woman? I think you need a way of honoring your relationship and maintaining your connection to your loved one as long as possible--even though your girl friend herself is "letting go" of her life. If you cut back on your visits, your girl friend may not even miss them much in her current condition. The issue, to me, is that your relationship needs to be recognized and honored--not just abandoned. I am touched by your dedication. I tried myself to be fully present and attentive to my husband who died recently in hospice care. The hospice grief counseling helped me enormously. I went to sessions with two of my friends who had also helped care for him at the end of his life. It is helpful to share memories with other people who have also known the loved one and can keep their presence "alive." My mother told me that she would never die as long as her memories lived in my heart. I also wrote a journal of all the memories that I had of my husband (over 60 pages now). That also helped. Best wishes to you from my heart.
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Oh, Charles, I'm sure this is heartbreaking for you, though I think you should continue, if at all possible, calling and communicating with your lady friend. I believe that you may feel very bad if you were to discontinue the relationship. And who better to know what is going on with your lady friend than you? Perhaps the reasoning of the daughter getting a place 100 miles away was due to a variety of facts-cost, availability, etc.
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