Everyone thinks they have the most enduring perfect love story ever – especially when they’ve been married for decades (plural). But what happens when the personality you married and loved for all those years disappears in front of your eyes but the person is still there? Can you live with someone who doesn’t recognize who you are? Can you live without your life partner/spouse? This is what happens when a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s impacts a family.
Take the case of B. Smith, described as a “restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle maven”. She was a legendary lifestyle guru right alongside Martha Stewart. But in 2013, at the age of 64, Smith was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. As with any family, this was a devastating diagnosis. Upon learning of her diagnosis, Smith and her husband of over 20 years, Dan Gadsby, wrote a book about dealing with Alzheimer’s called Before I Forget. It’s a treatise on how a couple can handle this life shattering disease.
Fast-forward just five short years to 2018. Dan Gadsby and his daughter are taking care of B. And he has discussed with the media details of his relationship with his girlfriend, who sometimes lives in the same house as Dan and B. Allegedly, B. doesn’t recognize anybody living in her home. This has, understandably, caused a furor in care-giving circles and online. Many question whether B. would agree to this unusual living situation when she had capacity.
How can you and your loved ones avoid this type of situation? You need an incapacity plan. The first step of this plan is to have a comprehensive estate plan. (For our first time blog readers, we gently remind you that the components of a complete estate plan usually consist of a living trust, a pour-over will, an Advanced Health Care Directive, and a Power of Attorney.) Additionally, if you have specific desires about where you want to live should you lose capacity, you should write those wishes down as well. This may seem strange and overly cautious. But if you want your wishes to be followed as much as possible when you can no longer act or decide things for yourself, writing these things down is the only way to make this happen.
Can you prevent your spouse from having a girlfriend and avoid B. Smith’s situation? Unfortunately not. But perhaps you can state your desires about where you want to live and how you want to be cared for when you are incapacitated. For example, you could absolutely state your desire to be placed in a care facility if possible and avoid the ‘husband/girlfriend living together in your home’ (catchy title, right?) situation.
So learn about your options. Think about what you may want. Planning for something that may not happen seems a hassle, we know. But you and your family will be glad you did. And then everyone can live with whomever they like.