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As soon as I read this story, I knew it could not be ignored. It is a timely, appropriate topic for all of us who read and write on this website. Click here to read it in its entirety, but I will summarize. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman ever appointed as a Supreme Court Justice, retired from the bench in 2005 to care for her husband, whose Alzheimer’s Disease was advancing. He currently resides in an Assisted Living facility, where, according to all of the titillating headlines in every newspaper, Internet news site, and TV program today, not only has he has found a new girlfriend at this facility, but his wife, Justice O’Connor, is happy for him.

For the record, theirs was a long, loving marriage Sandra Day o''Connor. Although she has chosen to keep her life private, and has never spoken in public about the effects of AD on her marriage, I am sure she has suffered the same trials and emotions as all of us.

On this website, we have dipped our toes into the water of controversy in daring to discuss, in Blogs, and on the Message Boards, the possibility of the spouses of Alzheimer patients entering into new relationships when their husbands/wives no longer recognize or acknowledge them. But it never occurred to me or any of my readers to consider the alternate possibility – that our AD spouse could foster a new relationship.

My first reaction to the story was instant, from the gut, and without any analytical thought – If that happened to me, I would be hurt and heartbroken, another stake through my heart, added to the rows of others imbedded there from the years of emotional pain and suffering brought to my marriage by AD.

But then I stepped back, and thought again. Who is that person in the nursing facility? We have so often discussed how AD turns our beloved spouses into strangers who bear little resemblance to the person we fell in love with; how AD turns them into children we have to care for, rather than partners and lovers with whom we share an emotional bond. AD robs us of our spouses, and then robs our spouses of our shared memories. They do not know us; they are often afraid of us; sometimes they are happy to be with us only as the person they know as their “caretaker”.  

So the question is – if they are no longer the person we knew; and if they have no memory of us, should we be as accepting of a new relationship they may form as is Justice O’Connor?

I still feel that I would be shattered if my husband found a new “love”, even if he did not remember me, but I have lived with this disease long enough to know that we never know what is ahead, and we never know how we will react to it.

What do you think? Would you be able to accept it? How do you think you would react?

MESSAGE BOARD TOPIC: Justice O’Connor- When your AD spouse finds a new love.

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