If your spouse has Alzheimer’s, you will probably experience significant changes in your marriage as the disease progresses.

New roles and responsibilities
You may find yourself taking on a new role in your marriage as your spouse’s memory worsens. The person with Alzheimer’s disease may no longer be able to perform certain tasks, such as balancing the chequebook, handling financial, tax and legal matters, and doing certain household chores. Making important decisions on your own may feel overwhelming.

To be prepared for this change in roles, it is important that you locate financial and legal documents, such as life assurance policies, property deeds and retirement annuities, soon after your loved one is diagnosed. You may need to turn to family, friends, professionals or community resources for assistance.

You may be feeling enormous grief because of the changes in your relationship. You are not selfish for experiencing these feelings. Given your spouse’s cognitive decline, you may no longer be able to have the same emotional or physical intimacy that you once shared.

It is typical that people with Alzheimer’s disease experience changes in their sexual drive. Depression can cause reduced interest in sex. Some caregivers report changes in sexual feelings toward their loved one as a result of providing daily caregiving tasks. A physical illness and reactions to medications can also reduce sexual desire.

Changes caused by the disease may cause the person with the disease to exhibit inappropriate behaviour and increased sexual drive. React to your spouse with patience and gentleness. Give your loved one plenty of physical contact in the form of hugging, stroking or patting. In many cases, he or she may simply be anxious and need reassurance through touch and gentle, loving communication.