SHOULD THE SPOUSE OF AN ALZEIMER’S PATIENT DIVORCE HER?

Remember the TV Evangelist, Rev. Pat Robinson.  Well, he’s 81 and still going strong.  Yesterday he took a call on his TV show asking how a couple should cope where the wife had dementia for years , did not know her husband and her care was becoming too onerous for the care-taker husband.  Rovinson was very understnding, struggled with the problem, then finally said that after the husband had provided care for his spouse, he could divorce  her.

This has raised a huge controversey.

Many christian ministers are outraged.  They argue that marriage is till death do us part no matter what the circumstances.

Other progressiveministers say in rare circumstances the husband should be able to divorce his spouse.

Should the spouse of an alzeimer’s patient be able to divorce her?

What do you think?

9 Comments »

  1. 1
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    The real issue here is that Neil watches “The 700 Club”. I find Robertson only one notch below that demon Jerry Falwell on the nutbar scale.

    On a more serious note: having been involved in estate-planning while I lived in the States, I’m wondering whether the concern had more to do with the phenomenon known as “Medicaid Spend-down.” This is the reqiirement that a person must spend down his assets (to a certain prescribed minimum) before being eligible for government medical assistance, in this case the very expensive long term care. If married, then all of the community or marriage property would be subject to the spend-down, thus impoverishing the husband as well, who at this point is probably exhausted and can no longer care for the wife.

    Divorce may allow a separating of the assets so that the husband can retain some semblance of an estate for himself for his own retirement years and the wife can more quickly qualify for Medicaid.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Well, of course, Tony there could be many financial issues at play in this case.

    But the key question is this: Are there any issues, financial or otherwise, that woulde justify the worn-out huband divorcing his long-demented wife?

  3. 3

    Tony, what makes you so sure Neil watches the 700 club? I knew about this story, and I don’t watch any television at all. It’s just all over the news and radio talk shows to the point of being boring.

    As to the question of divorcing a spouse with a mental or physical debilitatating illness, it’s a time-honored tradition in many circles, especially in politics. Whether or not the illness is the cause of the divorce, or simply a matter of timing, is up for questions, but lots of politicians and high-profile wealthy folks have done it.

    I think the “scandal” here is that someone in the public eye and ear finally had the brass to say there’s nothing “wrong” with it.

  4. 4
    jim Says:

    I know when my drooling begins that my main squeeze will want to keep me safe and sound at home, if I’m compos mentis. If not, however, and I lose it, it will be ok with me if she wants to give me the adieu scene complete with the crocodile tears. In this event, mainly because I’ve been in the marine business most of my life, I would like to take one last trip by sea to see the world. My instruction to my sweetie is, that she should get a see-thru body bag with a nice pillow. Then launch me into the St. Lawrence River. To keep the bag afloat, she should fill the bag with hot air, or gas, which is readily available from Tony.
    “The sea, the sea, the open sea, the blue, the fresh, the ever free, without a mark, without a bound, it runneth the world’s wide regions round.

  5. 5
    Neil McKenty Says:

    I still am not entirely clear on the answer to the following:

    Should the husband throw his spouse under the bus if she is far gone in dementia?

    Yes or NO

  6. 6
    Barbara Says:

    Few questions are easily answered with a yes or no, Neil. The older I get the more I realize that dualistic thinking is less than adequate.

    Actually, Tony has a point from the standpoint of someone in the States. It may be a exceedingly painful decision, but it may be the only legal way to get help faster. Of course, that wasn’t exactly what the questioner put to RoBERTson.

    In Canada, the situation is different — more humane, in my opinion. Still, it is difficult to put oneself in another’s shoes. Yes or no? Mu.

  7. 7
    jim Says:

    The answer is not yes or no, it’s yes and no. I can think of 3 dozen questions which are necessary in order to pinpoint which action is required. The answer I get on Monday will not necessarily be the same answer on Tuesday. On Wednesday I find out that he/she has been mis-diagnosed. The Amer Psy Assn’s DSM-IV mentions that nailing down the type of dementia, if it is dementia at all, is difficult.

  8. 8

    “Should the husband throw his spouse under the bus if she is far gone in dementia?”

    What bus?

  9. 9

    I have been married for 50 years. We have real love and respect
    for each other and would never consider a divorce under any circumstances.
    We have confidence that we will always care for each other, as we have all along.
    Part of our commitment to each other was “until death do us part”. Death.
    In fact it’s not a religious based promise, but a human promise.


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