Alzheimer’s and Infidelity

I came across an article in the Los Angeles Times that dealt with Alzheimer’s and infidelity. I know those two words don’t appear to be a likely combination, but according to some, they are. And now I understand why. Interestingly enough, I also saw a storyline in relation to this on the Netflix show, Grace and Frankie. The subject deserves closer attention. Aside and apart from the obvious distress of a loved one having Alzheimer’s, there’s also the lone mate who’s left to fend emotionally, physically, and financially. No simple matter. I’ve had first-hand experience with this disease; my ex-mother-in-law suffered from it. To say it takes its toll on all involved is an understatement. It’s exhausting and heart-wrenching.

So what about the mate “left behind?” Compassionately loving and caring for someone afflicted is the accepted go-to option. Yet, other thoughts exist. Some say vows and promises made should be held in high esteem; “till death do us part.” Others say, needs have to be met, especially if one is healthy and strong. How do you work through this? Do you become involved in a secret life that possibly creates all kinds of guilt and intricately woven lies? Do you file for divorce and incite the ire of those who feel you should stay committed? Are you ready to be a martyr for the cause, which possibly isn’t in anyone’s best interest? Is there a true right or wrong, or is it case by case?

Sandra Day O’Connor’s husband found happiness with another woman, also afflicted with the disease, while in assisted living: “The retired justice isn’t jealous about the relationship and is pleased that her husband is comfortable at the center.” CBS correspondent Barry Peterson provided for his wife when she fell ill with early-onset Alzheimer’s and found another love. He recounts his experience in his book, Jan’s Story.

This disease and the accompanying concerns illustrate a gray area that requires further understanding and scrutiny. If Alzheimer’s is a factor in your family, an open discussion with your mate is a good first defense. This disease can take years before it runs its course. It’s best to speak now or you, in fact, may have to forever hold your peace.


*Sandra Day O’Connor article:

*Barry Petersen book:




  • Kia Posted

    I never thought about those 2 things together! My grandmother had Alzheimers for 10 years before she died. My grandfather passed before she had it and as far as I know there were no other relationships for either of them. Having said that, Alzheimer’s changes a person profoundly through no fault of their own so I can see how “infidelities” occure. I think it is important not to judge in these situations. There is no way to truly know what is happening for all the parties involved or what is right and wrong. Everyone needs support and love, especially during difficult times in our lives.

    • Elda Posted

      Hi Kia,

      I know, I never did either! It’s unquestionably a legitimate circumstance. My ex-mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s but she wasn’t married at the time. However, I do realize how devastating and challenging this disease can be. What also brought it home, was an episode of Grace and Frankie–believe it or not. Jane Fonda’s character becomes involved with Sam Elliott’s character, even though he’s still married and living with his wife who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Jane ultimately decides to leave the relationship due to the fact it was uncomfortable and confusing, but not before she became physically involved with Sam. I know this may seem like a superficial comparison, but I was happy to see such a delicate situation presented publicly. It gives plenty of food for thought. Many don’t consider this situation, but should, because it’s real.

      And you’re right, it’s best not to judge. The same applies to infidelity across the board. The natural instinct is to react and most definitely judge. I certainly did when my ex-husband cheated on me (I’ve also been the other women). Thankfully, I’ve learned a few lessons since then. Of course, people can’t continually betray their mate believing they’ll never be confronted. The “get out of jail card, free” isn’t bottomless. When the behavior becomes a pattern, personal accountability has to come into play, otherwise, growth is stymied and the damage runs deeper. Alzheimer’s is an entirely different story.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kia. I appreciate your input.

      Be the change-up!

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