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What do you do when your spouse think you are her ex-husband?

I had been taking care of my wife fulltime for the last 5 years. She was diagnosed with early onset dementia about 5 years after we were married and went to memory care a few months ago. Now she is greeting my by her ex's name and saying things that make no sense to me but I'm sure would to him. It is getting harder for me to go visit her and I feel like a horrible person for putting her in a home and then not wanting to visit. No one understands what I am going through. I never thought I would be going through this at this point in my life. How do others deal with this type of situation?
Status: Open    Jan 05, 2016 - 01:00 PM


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Expert Answers

Jan 12, 2016 - 09:43 AM

The behavior you see from your spouse is not uncommon for a dementia sufferer. And to think that you would not have some sort of emotional reaction to this isn't really realistic, so try not to be too hard on yourself. One thing you may try when you visit is to redirect her towards a topic not associated with her ex-husband. Anything that she has shared with you from her past that made her smile might be a good place to start. This could be topics like work, hobbies, family story, or something as simple as watching birds outside of her window. The point is to guide her to a topic other than her ex-husband that you will both enjoy talking about. You might also want to inquire to see if there are any dementia/alzheimer's support groups in your area. It's possible you will meet others in a similar position as yourself who can help by sharing their challenges, and what they have found that helps.


Jan 16, 2016 - 08:13 AM

I have been taking care of my mom with alzheimers now for more than 10 years - she was living with me for a bunch of those years, but is now residing in an alzheimers center. It is such an emotional roller coaster ride for the families and the care givers -
To have someone that you fell in love with and married and then before the honeymoon period is even over, for them to forget what you had between you - is very hurtful - and you must be dealing with the guilt of the thoughts of "I didn't sign up for this"....please do not feel as if you are betraying them or that you are a "bad" person for feeling this - it is all very common.
I would suggest to go to the Alzheimers website and join in with the bloggers - it is helpful - because we all do relate to some of the horrible stories that the disease creates and the overwhelming frustration, angry, tiredness feelings for your love one and for yourself. But, it is a place to also laugh at some of these stories and how similar some of the "chararistic habits" are that our loves ones do - that is so un-chararistic of their personalities.
For your visits - try and bring in pictures or music or anything that might help distract your wife and go with the mindset that it is not important that she actually understands who you are, but only that you are there to make her feel "safe" and "comfortable" and it also as a watchful eye over the aids that are taking care of her.....not to say that they are not doing their job, but your wife is not able to have a voice any more - so it is your new way of making sure she is being well taken care of.

No one ever wants to be a burden or totally dependent on someone else to take care of us, and I can not imagine the feeling of forgetting all the memories that we spend a life time creating with our family & friends - none of us would sign up for that half of the deal either - so, do not feel bad about not enjoying your visits - but think of it as your commitment to the person she was and be the best advocate that you can be for her.

I wish the best to you, and please do not feel you are alone - and please keep reaching out to others as you did with this question you sent in.

Lets pray for a cure, because I do not want to end up on the other side either!!

deep breaths and keep smiling when possible - and definetely try and keep your sense of humor whenever possible..


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