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What can I do?


Registered User
Oct 17, 2005
I have just heard that a very close friend's ex-wife has been diagnosed with AD at the age of 44. He has been divorced from her for several years and has two teenage children who live with their mum. When she was diagnosed, he moved back into the family home and feels 'emotionally responsible' for her - even though he has been divorced for years and loves someone else (whom he has told he feels 'guilty being happy'). He won't talk about it to anyone and I'm so worried that he will give up his happiness because of feelings of guilt. Is anyone here in a similar situation? Can anyone offer any advice?


Registered User
Mar 23, 2005
Dear Kate_k,

Do you have any idea how devestating a diagnosis of dementia can be? Devestating at any age, but especially so at the age of 44 with teenage children involved.

Sounds like this father has done the morally courageous thing in this most difficult of circumstances. I applaud him!



Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
near London
(I have moved this thread to the "Younger people with dementia" section)

It is a difficult balancing act - having responsibility for someone with dementia to whom one was/is married, as well as moving on [or having moved on] with someone else one now loves.

The important thing to know is that it is not impossible, simply very difficult, and it requires a huge amount of understanding from friends, family, and mostly from that new person in one's life.

Guilt? I assume for not being able to devote himself to his new partner? Because there can be no guilt regarding the dementia.

Well, yes. There will be feelings of guilt because anyone you love deserves all your energy and time. But I think it has to come down to the new partner in the end.

If the new partner knows the situation and in effect says, "it's them or me", then that is a challenge. Anyone would understand them saying that, and it would only be a very special person indeed who didn't [say that]. Only somebody in that situation could make the call as to which way to jump. Family ties are huge and feelings of such responsibility can't just be cast aside. I'd reckon the new relationship would have severe challenges if that route was taken.

If the new partner says they understand and will be part of the complex relationships so generated, then that's another thing - and if they do that there should be no question of giving up any happiness. Indeed, there should be rejoicing because the new partner will be such a special person. Happiness will need to be taken, along with sadness, anger, frustration, fear, etc

Dementia can go on developing for many years, and it is that problem that causes more worries than anything. To stick for a long time with someone who has responsibility for another person who has dementia is nigh on impossible without there being, at the least, some painful soul searching.

It is never going to be easy, but impossible it ain't!

Kate_k said:
Can anyone offer any advice?
introduce them to Talking Point, as soon as possible.


Registered User
Sep 16, 2005
A difficult situation


How terrible for your friend, I understand that really he has no option as he has kids with his ex-wife and how could he just walk away from her when they will be needing somebody to look after their Mum and it sounds like the other guy will not be stepping up to the plate. Fair enough for the other guy too if he wasn't fully committed to the relationship, I don't think that anyone should be expected to take on this job of caring if they only have loose ties, they would have to be crazy or a saint! Perhaps your friend can arrange some shared care with this bloke though if he does have strong feelings for her and wants to help but is scared. Shared care would be mush lighter burden than doing it all on his own.

I recently had a friend in a similar situation except his ex-wife got cancer and he moved back in to care for her. After about a year she died and it was terrible for him. Previous to her diagnosis he was just starting to get a new life, was hopeful, excited about life (she had left him and devastated him) but then this tragedy came along and his teenage boys have had emotional problems because of it and he appears to be sinking into depression and there has been nothing I can do to help him except be there for him to talk to (He lives in the US and I am in Australia). Even though his wife is gone now, he has not been able to come out of it unscathed and that was just a year of pain and watching her die. We all know here how long and painful the dementia journey can be in comparison.

Perhaps you should point him towards this website, I think its very important for him to know how long this committment might be. In some cases it can go on past 10 years and when our loved ones are struck young their physical body is very strong still so even though the dementia is often more viscious, their body holds up right through it. After 6 years my Dad has a brain only a third of the size it used to be yet he can walk and eat (I have to feed him) and appears to be very strong physically still. Your friend probably won't want you to be telling him all this and unfortunately a lot of the dementia propaganda available to the public doesn't really tell folks what the real situation is. The wordings used by information pamphlets and doctors sounds so soft, dreamy, easy and gentle but in my experience it is harsh, gut wrenching, painful, shocking. Again probably more so when a young person's body is fighting this disease and not just capitulating without the strength to fight it.

Last but not least, and I think most importantly, I think your friend if he does take this on, which I can't see how he can avoid it because of his children will have to tread a very thin line. His children are going to expect that their mother be cared for, but even for those of us who love our dementia sufferers like nothing else it is difficult not to feel feelings of hate, anger, resentment and so on towards them. I can't imagine what it would be like if there is unresolved anger from the divorce involved.

My mother and father for example although married for 40 years probably should have divorced long ago and my mother's ability to care for my father reflected this fact. She hates him, pure hate on many a day, and with lack of sleep and having no life and having to do things like change nappies for an adult this is a terrible mix. She has said many a time that she should have divorced him and would never have had to make this sacrifice, she resents him for this and this meant many many years of unbeleivable stress for me his daughter who did and does love him. Life has been soooo much easier since Mum put Dad in a home. I don't resent Mum doing this at all, it was the biggest favour she could have done me and Dad ever. Your friend needs to understand that it will be extremely hard to not hate his ex-wife if he has any divorce baggage and this could be detrimental to his children if they have to witness it being played out in the caring situation. Unfortunately as they are so young they may hate him either way. But I do recommend that as soon as the going gets really tough and that may be some years away, your friend should not feel guilty about putting his ex-wife in a home, so long as he and the children are prepared to visit on a regular basis.

Hope this has helped,


Registered User
Oct 17, 2005
Thanks for your messages, they have been very helpful – if a little sobering.

Yes Sandy, I do have an idea of how devastating a diagnosis of dementia can be – that’s the point and that’s why I’m trying to help by finding out as much as I can on the subject. My friend may have done the morally courageous thing, but at what cost to his life and happiness? If I was his ex-wife, I wouldn’t want him to give up his happiness to care for me, not in a million years! There is a compromise somewhere in there – you’re right Bruce when you say the ‘it’s them or me’ attitude would be wrong, family ties are indeed strong and the responsibility can’t just be ignored.

His ex-wife has no new partner and very little family. Her father is very old and doesn’t even know of her diagnosis, she has a brother who lives a long way away and I can’t see him taking an active role in her care – so the whole ‘burden of care’ rests on the shoulders of a man who doesn’t love her, had moved on, met somebody else and was looking forward to a new life. What are the alternatives? In such a young diagnosis, I believe there could be many years of caring to come and because of her symptoms and the fact that the youngest child is only 15 he has already felt it necessary to move back into the house with them. I may be being selfish for him, because he wouldn’t be for himself, but there must be alternatives, there must be help to be had from some quarter! The problem is, he is the type of man who would never ask for it.


Registered User
Mar 16, 2005
Hi Kate_k,

"there must be help to be had from some quarter! The problem is, he is the type of man who would never ask for it."

Ah! there's the rub. No matter how badly you feel for him, if he has made his decision then I don't see how you can stop him, nor why you should - only hopefully you can try to support him. He's in a no-win situation as far as people around him are concerned, he's damned (pitied?) if he does and damned (guilt monster) if he doesn't, and it's hard to stand back and watch a friend 'runining' his chance of happiness, but I guess that's life. :( Besides, there are always opportunities for him to continue his new relationship, as Bruce says:

"The important thing to know is that it is not impossible, simply very difficult, and it requires a huge amount of understanding from friends, family, and mostly from that new person in one's life."

"If I was his ex-wife, I wouldn’t want him to give up his happiness to care for me, not in a million years!

At the moment I think I'd feel the same but everyone is different and situations arise where you never know how you're going to feel. Security for the children would be one of my main concerns as the ex-wife. If they have both decided this is the best path then so be it.

He's being practical and not thinking of himself in this situation - a feat that I can only aspire to, being a fairly selfish person sometimes. There's a job to be done and he's going to do it. If his mind is made up (and I'd say that moving back in has made that pretty clear), and he won't ask for help then, as his friend, you may be able to provide it for him by many means, not least by introducing him to this forum, as Nat and Bruce suggested.

Life's never easy, is it!
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