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Till Dementia Do Us Part?

As a spouse is stricken with Alzheimer's disease, more caregivers seek out a new love

Relationships love and sex

— Michael Weber/Gallery Stock

The next phase

The journey definitely affected A.B.'s expectation of what he wanted for the rest of his life. Two months after Frances' passing, long before, he says, many would have deemed it, "acceptable," A.B. started courting Joyce. And soon he wasn't counting the days since his wife's passing, or breaking into tears at the small mementos of her existence—the last bottle of nutritional supplement in the fridge, her photo on the mantel. Seven months later, A.B. and Joyce stood before a small crowd of friends and family and pledged to spend their remaining years together, however many or few there may be.

"I have promised, faithfully, that I will outlive her," A.B. says with the resolve born from deep love that lets you believe saying something is enough to make it so.

"So she's depending on that, and I have practiced being the caregiver, so that's the way it ought to work out. And yes, I love her enough to be willing to go through that all again. It beats being alone by a long shot."

Choosing to love again is a leap of faith and an act of courage for Petersen as well. "I am a lot more worried that this is something that would happen to me and that [my lady friend], who has already been a widow, would have to look after me," says Petersen.

A.B. refuses to fixate on the inevitable. Both he and Joyce came to the marriage with their preexisting conditions—his bypass surgery, her spinal stenosis. Recently, he spent weeks nursing Joyce through a bout with shingles. She is slowly getting her strength back, and once she's ready, A.B. has a to-do list he wants to complete. There are trips to take, redecorating to do in the house. Most of all, there's life to be lived.

"It was my vision of a life 'after' that sustained me through the past hard year or so, and now everything really is coming up roses," A.B. says. "Of course, I still love and miss and think about Frances, as Joyce does about [her husband], whom she lost four years ago, but we're both happy and excited to be moving on with our lives."

Cynthia Ramnarace writes about health and families from Rockaway Beach, N.Y.

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