Religious TV, Pat Robertson stunned "700 Club" viewers Tuesday, when he said a divorced spouse with Alzheimer's disease were eligible. Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network and former Republican presidential candidate, had "put a sense of guilt" is a divorce, a spouse with Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's disease, calling it "a kind of death."
The remarks sparked outrage throughout the community of Alzheimer's.
"Tolerating leave her partner is in full swing with this disease robs mentality is absurd," said Dr. Amanda Smith, medical director of the University of South Florida Health Center Alzheimer's in Tampa. "Although Alzheimer's disease certainly affect the dynamics of relationships, marriage vows are taken in sickness and health."
Approximately 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease - a figure that is expected to surge in baby boomers reach their golden years. And about 80 percent of Alzheimer patients living at home are supported by members of the family.
Pat Robertson comments came after a viewer asked what advice he would give a friend who had seen another woman since his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
"I know it sounds cruel, but if he will do something, he must divorce her and start over, but make sure it has custodial care and that someone cares for her," says Robertson .
But the Rev. AD Baxter, a social worker with the Cole Neuroscience Center at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, said that the care of a loved one is invaluable.
"When are supported by a spouse, love for the spouse is often what makes a person with Alzheimer's disease to continue and not feel abandoned," said Baxter, adding that families need support, too. "Many believe that a true friend does not give up in times of need."
Alzheimer strains Relations
The progressive symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can focus on relationships, leaving caregivers to cope with the loss of privacy and other aspects of adult romantic relationships, said Dr. Jason Karlawish, a professor of medicine and medical ethics deputy director of the Memory Center in Philadelphia, Penn.
"There is no doubt that this is a problem," said Karlawish. "However, a spouse who is struggling with these issues, I mean, after the patient has left this world, wants to be able to look back and say we treat that person with dignity."
New technologies make it possible to diagnose Alzheimer's earlier, while patients have the ability to understand the road ahead.
"I think this highlights the need for couples and families to have discussions at the beginning of any disease, preferably before the disease strikes, then that person's decisions and preferences are known and respected," said David Loewenstein , a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Pat Robertson advice was of a male caregiver. But sometimes it is the patient who wants to start a new relationship.
"I've seen both nurses and patients to establish new relationships with the course of dementia. What they want to deal with it is up to them. All parties to deal with this disease suffer to some extent, and they deserve to find happiness," said USF Smith. "Ultimately, the decision for each couple to divorce, for whatever reason, is a privately owned and difficult."
Some couples are still married, but to form new relationships, too.
"There are many partners who are committed to the person with Alzheimer's disease, however, establish new relationships, and also the care of her husband," said Darby Morhardt, a social worker and director of education and cognitive neuroscience Alzheimer Center of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It's hard to negotiate living with Alzheimer's disease, but dictating what is right and wrong are not useful.
"Everyone needs to make their own decisions and to consider all sides. I sincerely hope a good shepherd never need to experience first hand of his counsel's disease."