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The Dr. Ruth Interview (Page 2 of 4)
An Interview with Dr. Ruth
This is not a book about sex; but, of
course, I had to say something. I know
from people that I talk to Ė Iím
thinking especially of one gentleman who
said he can continue having sexual
relations. This is not the problem. The
problem is that the sick person doesnít
remember. And there are people who will
not date somebody whose spouse is living
with that disease. It just doesnít work
because they canít date and put that
reality on the side, and the caregiver
would not get a divorce in this
situation. And I know of some people who
are in a care facility that start a
relationship with somebody else.
You spoke of Former Supreme Court
Justice Sandra Day OíConnorís husband
who developed a committed relationship
with a lady in the Alzheimerís facility.
This happened to my grandfather as well.
It must have been devastating for your
She wasnít well herself. She was being
cared for somewhere else. And to my
momís credit, she understood what was
going on and she accepted the
relationship because Gramps did. He
adored his wife. He would never have
done that if he had been aware. And we
discovered that itís really quite a
contentious topic when we write about
this. What advice do you have for family
caregivers who find themselves with a
loved one or a husband, wife, or parent,
who is still married and has a
relationship in a care facility?
It is very difficult. I will never
minimize the difficulty; but I give
credit to all of those family members
who accept it by saying, ďThatís the
situation.Ē Itís very difficult to then
still be the caregiver and loving
relative, even if a new partner enters.
Itís very difficult to tell a spouse.
Here you have lived with this person for
40 years and now that person doesnít
recognize you. Itís not just the sex.
Itís the emotional part of not
recognizing somebody that you have lived
with for a lifetime. And I think one has
to get over the conventional view. Itís
not something that anybody would have
done if they were not in that situation.
So one has to say, at least in the
facility, they can visit each other,
they can hold hands, they can have sex.
I also hope that they make sure that
thereís no sexually transmitted disease.
And I think youíre right. I think
sometimes the thing that will hurt the
cognitive spouse is the loss of
emotional intimacy. They see their loved
one, who isnít the same person anymore,
having a relationship with somebody
else. How do you overcome that?
Very difficult. You canít overcome it
because there is some resentment in
saying, ďHere I cared for you, here Iím
visiting you, and I have had a life with
you, I have had children with you and
grandchildren.Ē Nobody will ever get
over it. What Iím saying is you have to
deal with it by saying, ďThatís the
reality of life right now for you.Ē Very
You just have to accept that it makes
somebody I love happy, although they
would never have done that if they were
aware, so I understand that.