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Dealing with a spouse who has dementia

Posted at 11:42 PM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 23:42:20-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Henry Ashauer married the love of his life nearly 60 years ago.

His wife Mary was diagnosed with dementia in 2011.

They spend a lot of their time visiting doctors. And when they’re not there, Ashauer said he’s learning to do things he’s never done before, like cook and do laundry, on top of taking care of his ill wife. He said it all stresses him out.

“I don’t know what I do to be happy. I really don’t,” he said.

Last week Dan Gasby, husband of famous model and restauranteur B. Smith shared with fans that he has an in-home girlfriend to help with the stress as he cares for his sick wife.

He told the Washington Post in an interview:

“I believe in the sanctity of marriage but I don't believe death do you part means that because you made a commitment, if the person is not there that you should sit there and watch your life shrivel up. And that's why I am where I am today."

But Ashauer said he doesn’t want to leave his wife’s side. He even gave up golfing with his friends.

“I don’t feel safe leaving her alone,” he said.

He told his wife he has his reasons.

“You can walk out the front door and a little piece of your memory gone. And you don’t have any idea where you are (zoom out, Mary shaking her head no)…that’s something that could happen to you. It just can. Oh no, it’s not gonna happen?" he asked his wife as she shook her head no. "Bull crap. It is gonna happen,” he said.

Doctor Bruce Lipshutz with Millennium Physician Group said it’s common for spouses to neglect their personal needs and desires when caring for a partner with dementia.

“They feel guilty about doing anything for themselves. And it should be about themselves too, because they become a better caregiver,” he said.

Dan Gasby told the Washington Post his girlfriend Alexandra Lerner makes him a better caregiver for his wife.

“This woman who is in my life now understood that, and cared about that. And when I met her, she saw the loneliness in my eyes and the tiredness in my eyes and she was there for me,” he said.

Dr. Lipshutz said the spouse needs care too.

“I think what happens is the spouse gets burned out with weeks, months years of anxiety and depression,” he said.

Ashauer said no matter how hard it gets with his wife, he doesn’t see himself looking for love with someone else.

“I haven’t even thought about it. Well that’s a lie. I’m telling you a big lie. I have thought about it…but I would never,” he said.

He said he plans to see it through with Mary until the very end.

“My biggest fear is dying and leaving her alone,” said Ashauer.

If you or someone you love is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease there are places in Southwest Florida where you can go for help. There’s the Alvin Dubin Alzheimer's resource center in Fort Myers and the Hope Palliative Care. Doctors also recommend staying active - exercise, do puzzles and communicate with friends and family members as much as you can.