The Painful Reality of Marriage After Alzheimer’s
My wife and I have been partners in everything for 48 years, but there’s nothing remotely romantic about full-time caretaking.
Illustration by Nicole Xu
It’s late night, early morning. Barbara wakes up and looks straight at me with half-open, sad eyes. She is panic-stricken, terrified, with rapid breathing that would scare the hell out of anyone sleeping next to her.
“I, I, I, can’t, can’t, can’t,” she says. Her hair is in a ponytail, coming undone. She’s wearing a black sweatshirt with a ballerina on it, a holdover from her decades as a dancer.
“Stop,” I say. “You’re dreaming. It’s okay. You’re safe. It’s two o’clock in the morning.” But this is no dream.
Barbara lies back down, then gets back up. She makes her side of the bed, tucking in the sheet and the blanket. She goes around to my side and tucks in the sheet and the blanket as if I’m not there, lying in the bed. She goes back to her side and asks if she can stay with me.
Of course she can. She’s my wife of 48 years. For the past two years, she’s had Alzheimer’s, and I’ve been her caretaker. I don’t like the word caretaker, though. This is my wife who I slee…
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