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The Dr. Ruth Interview  (Page 2 of 4)

An Interview with Dr. Ruth


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.

Gary Barg: 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.

Dr. Ruth: It must have been devastating for your grandmother.

Gary Barg: 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?

Dr. Ruth: 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.

Gary Barg: 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?

Dr. Ruth: 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 difficult.

Gary Barg: 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.


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