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Love in the World of Alzheimer's
Date:12/10/2007

New relationships for those with little memory leave spouses, children facing their own altered reality, experts say

MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Even when Alzheimer's disease robs them of the life they once knew, some people can still find love among the ruins.

And in most cases -- as highlighted by recent news on retired Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor -- the spouse or child of the Alzheimer's patient grows to understand and accept the new relationship, experts say.

O'Connor's Alzheimer's-stricken husband John, 77, has found companionship with a woman in the nursing home where he now resides, according to recent news reports. The two spend time together, holding hands, even when Justice O'Connor is nearby, the reports said.

This type of relationship was also the focus of the recent film Away From Her, starring Julie Christie as a woman with Alzheimer's who gradually forgets her husband and forms a new bond with a fellow nursing home resident. Her husband gradually comes to accept the relationship, understanding that it gives his wife comfort and stability amid the confusion that Alzheimer's can bring.

Such an emotional journey is common for caregivers confronted with such a situation, said Donna Schempp, program director of the national advocacy group Family Caregiver Alliance, based in San Francisco.

Most spouses or children of people with Alzheimer's "have responded very positively" to these newfound relationships, which are not uncommon, she said. "Because if the person does not know who you are anymore, it's not a rejection," Schempp explained.

"And in the end, we want the person that we care about to be happy," she said. "Just behaviorally, and in other ways, they are going to be better if they are feeling cared about and nurtured, loved and appreciated."

Experts in Alzheimer's disease say many people are surprised to learn that patients cont
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