Here’s hoping Pat Robertson has a pair of sturdy boots because he just waded into a big, hot, sticky mess. The Christian broadcaster told viewers of his 700 Club that it is okay to divorce a spouse suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. And here we thought the dude from yesterday was insensitive!
I guess I should start today’s debate by prefacing I have not been intimately impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. I do, however, have a very good friend who cared for her uncle, from diagnosis to death. To say it was hard would be like comparing the Grand Canyon to a Florida sinkhole. It was all-consuming and watching her look after someone whose physical ability and mental faculties diminished daily, nearly broke my heart. Her uncle died a few years after he was diagnosed, and though she never said it, I can only imagine his death was a welcome relief.
There are between two and a half and five million people in the U.S. with the debilitating neurological disease and they can live anywhere from a few years to as many as ten after diagnosis. You can imagine what kind of toll that takes on the caregiver.
I’m guessing that’s what Pat Robertson was thinking when he answered the question from a man who asked about his friend who was seeing another woman after his wife had been diagnosed. Robertson told the man his friend should divorce his wife and start all over again. When asked how he could square that with The Bible’s stance on divorce, Robertson justified his position by saying Alzheimer’s disease is like a death. Harsh? Yes. Acceptable? I don’t know yet.
If I were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my cognitive function had diminished to the point where I no longer recognized my husband and family, I would be okay with Buff divorcing me so that he could carry on with his life. If he was the one to be diagnosed, I want to say I would tough it out; the vows we took were “Til death do us part”, not, “Til death do us part or until something better comes along.
The thing that scares me about this is this feeling of staying with your partner until they outlive their usefulness in your life. What happened to “In sickness and in health?” or are those just words on parchment paper?
I don’t have the answer to this one so let’s talk about it and I would really love to hear from someone who’s either been in a position like this or knows someone who has. Could you justify leaving your spouse if they were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? What if they became paralyzed or suffered some other debilitating disease? At what point do you balance your needs and the rest of your life with caring for your spouse? Okay, let’s talk about it!