DEAR ABBY: After two failed marriages, I married a wonderful man whom I love but am not in love with. He recently had a seizure, after which he was diagnosed with moderate dementia.
All I see is a long, dark road ahead. We are both senior citizens with not a long time left on this Earth. My health is suffering because of this situation. I am extremely depressed, suffer from panic attacks and have lost any hope of happiness in the future.
I am torn between my responsibility to my husband and leaving to try to find some sort of joy in my life. If I stay, my mental and physical health will be ruined. If I leave, guilt will destroy me. Is there a solution? -- OVERWHELMED IN HOUSTON
DEAR OVERWHELMED: Yes, and the first part of the solution is to realize you are NOT a weak sister -- as much as you might think you are. You took a vow to stand by the man you married, and now it's time to honor it. He may not be the love of your life, but he is your friend. Friends don't cut and run when the going gets tough.
Talk to a geriatrician (M.D.) to find out what kind of care your husband needs now and will need in the future. You should also learn as much as you can about what services for seniors exist in your community. He may eventually need an assisted living facility, but in the meantime, a home caregiver may be able to help him with personal grooming and give you some time to yourself. If he has children or other family members, they might be willing to pitch in and help.
While a diagnosis of dementia is daunting, I urge you to enjoy the time you have with him now. He's still the person you cared for enough to marry. He WILL be that person for quite a while. You may be a senior, but you're still vital and may have many years ahead to enjoy life. If you fulfill your role as a supportive wife now, your chances of finding happiness when your husband's journey is over will be greater.
A final thought: You're not alone. There is support out there for you and your husband. Reach out to the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org; 800-272-3900) for information and local support and resources.