Alzheimer’s Emotions, Grief, Relationships, Romance, and More


The Oscar-nominated movie Away from Her portrays a long-married couple struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and the emotional toll it causes when the wife, played by actress Julie Christie, gives her affection to another man whom she meets in a nursing home.

This sex, what those connections can mean, how Alzheimer’s affects families, including spouses and children, and how they can cope with a disease that takes their loved ones away from them.

Alzheimer’s and New Bonds in a Nursing Home

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a condition that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Alzheimer’s ultimately affects a person’s ability to work, engage in normal everyday activities, and maintain grief they are feeling will now have a face. You’ve already lost that person because of the cognitive impairment, but now you’ve truly lost them because they don’t know who you are and they are giving their affection to someone else.”

Still, there’s a silver lining, and that is in knowing that your loved one has found some comfort, even if it’s with another person.

“As a spouse, you have to remember that it’s not that your husband or wife is rejecting you, or that they don’t care about you anymore, but they lack the ability to recognize these memories or their feelings,” says Powers. “It’s the disease; it’s not personal.”

For the children of Alzheimer’s patients, struggling to come to grips with not only their parent’s disease, but also their parent’s new companion in the nursing home, can be just as devastating.

“Sometimes adult children can have a harder time with it than the spouse,” says Schempp. “It’s difficult to deal with feeling like your mom or dad has been replaced.”

As a spouse or a child, it’s important to come to grips with the disease and how it affects a person’s dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, a loved one’s newfound bond in a nursing home, and its impact on your family’s life:

Remember, it’s a disease. “Deal with it as part of a disease process — it’s not a conscious decision to abandon you,” says Powers. “It’s important to think about the person not being able to make choices at that level.”

See the silver lining. “Think about how your spouse is finding comfort in their new companion, and even if it doesn’t make you feel good, remember that it is probably a nice feeling for them,” says Schempp.

Find support. “The Alzheimer’s Association encourages people to reach out for help,” says Reed. “We offer community support programs and online resources for families who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease.”

Understand it can happen anywhere. “Whether the person with Alzheimer’s is at home or at a facility, their ability to get attached to someone new other than their spouse is still there,” says Schempp. “It’s not exclusive to the nursing home; it’s random depending on how their brains are working.”

It’s not just wives and husbands, either. “Very often, a person with Alzheimer’s doesn’t know who their child is anymore and replaces them with a home aide or a friend,” says Schempp. “In their brain, by creating an identity with this new person, they are reconfiguring the family dynamic that was comfortable or nurturing to them.”

See the world through their . “>memory loss, and confusion,” says Powers. “When you start to have these familiar faces around you in a nursing home, of course you are going to find friends. It makes sense. It doesn’t mean they are replacing their spouse or the family they’ve loved their whole loves, they’re just adjusting any way they can.”