As a caregiving spouse for late moderte Alzheimer's patient, there is now a terrible loneliness felt in all aspects of our relationship....what are the moral and ethical issues concerning my seeking and starting a new relationship with someone else....this would be after 50 years of absolute faithfulness to our marriage and would still be there for her until such time as alternate full time living arrangements become necessary.

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Whoa, people, there is an incredible amount of judgment going on here and an amazing amount of certainty. The surer we are, the more we should question our sureness. You may think you have a lock on what's right, what God thinks, or what a vow means or doesn't mean, but none of us does. One angle not considered here is, imagine this: suppose you knew you were going to become demented beyond reach of connection, and your spouse were going to spend years purely as a caregiver whom you didn't even recognize. Would you sentence him or her to doing that for you in a deeper hell of loneliness than necessary, or might you gratefully say to him or her, "Thank you for your faithful care and goodness to me in the years that I will be beyond your reach but in your care, please find the human connection I won't be able to give you any longer"? Just another angle......
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Really, one of us can feel the pain he has...he owns it....I too have a spouse in late stage dementia and I feel as if he has died already...I never thought I would feel this way...but once they don't recognize you it becomes much harder to cope....The loss eats at you all day and there IS no closure until they do pass....With his wife still at home it must be even harder....I am reaching out to friends and fortunately getting support, but it is a very hard journey with a lot of potholes in the road. Hang in there my friend! I know SOME of what you're going through and it really stinks! At 61, I am hoping to have a life again!! Perhaps you can too.....
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What is the Moral Issue? Marriage is a serious thing. Whether you did it by "church" or "secular" you both made vows to be faithful. It does't matter if your spouse has "forgotten" who you are and can no longer assuage your "needs." You became One in God's eyes. And He was very specific in the Bible about marriage.

Having extramarrital affairs? Whoever your "New" companion is, she will remind you of what "Normal" used to be - to talk to someone, to laugh, to share the current news, to enjoy everything that you no longer experience now. Your heart will soon follow your..uhm...desires (sorry, trying to be political correct here). I think you're fooling yourself if you think you can just have extramarital "activities" and NOT have it affect you and the wife.

In the end, you will resent your wife for holding you back, for wasting money on her when you have better use for it, etc... I'm sorry...

I believe in God, the Bible and marriage. I cannot condone extramarital affairs. Your marriage vows did not have an exclusion clause on it.
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I told my husband that if I ever don't know who I am or who he is, I would want him to make sure I am as well cared for as possible, but he has my blessing to enjoy the company of a nice lady friend if she makes his journey easier and still leaves enough of him to not neglect me.
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Dear 123Ann, what a difficult spot to be in and what an honest question. This reminded me of "Away from Her" (movie about 45 year marriage and wife has ALZ). If you haven't seen it, make sure you do. In this stage of ALZ, your wife may not resemble the person you married. Take this one day at a time. If you're feeling isolated, reach out to family, old friends and neighbors or support groups, to make sure you stay connected. This forum is a great place for that. Try to think of what your beloved would have done if she been in your place. It may help you resolve these feelings. And this should remind us all to talk with our loved ones about our own wishes should we ever be in your spot. Be strong 123Ann.
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What if the shoe was on the other foot? what if you were the patient and SHE was the one who wanted another person after 50 years of marriage? If you have kids buddy, guess what, she gave birth to each one. Probably saw you were fed and your clothes were washed when you went to work, probably worried when you came home late. I hope to God if I ever get a disabling illness, my "love story" wont end up like this one! What happened to your "friendship"? You do not treat a partner, a friend, a spouse this way. I am sure and know for a fact that she didnt choose to be ill. And yes, caretaking is stressful. Get a dog, a cat, a support group, your left hand. whatever. like the old song.."ruby..dont take your love to town.."....remember buddy you asked this question..I wish there was a button to give someone a kick in the behind instead of a hug..but there isnt one. Grow up..its time.
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I've been thinking about this question a lot today. Yes, 123Ann asked for the 'moral' and 'ethical' issues. However, I'm answering from the pov of someone who's been there in many ways. You care for your wife, you're taking care of her. It's not easy. My dad took care of my mom for 62 years and never strayed (as far as I know) however, as my mom got worse and worse physically and mentally, I prayed that my dad could find someone to find some happiness with because he so deserved it after 40 years of the illnesses and dementia of his wife. Unfortunately he passed away and took care of my mom until a week before he died when he couldn't anymore. I can't help thinking that he deserved some kind of happiness before he died. My mom is still alive and just as bitter now as she was before he died and now I think the same about me. I deserve some happiness in my life too. Yes marriage is a vow, for better for worse, etc. I'm married and I understand that commitment. However there is no way that I would want my husband to suffer through years of heartbreak because of my inability to be there with or for him. Everyone knows men are not as strong as women. Say what you will but it is true. I say, find happiness where you can. You are taking care of your wife and that was the promise. Honestly, you don't have much time left either (please don't be mad at that statement) and I cannot believe that God is out to punish people for taking care of their spouses. You want permission to be 'unfaithful'. I say give yourself permission to have some happiness in your life. Life is hard and short enough without so much guilt and fear of retaliation from God or people. Ultimately it's up to you and how you will feel about yourself. You don't love your wife any less.
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The fact that you asked about the "moral issue" tells me you already know the answer and ask for permission. I am sorry, but as has been mentioned several times by others it is "for better or worse, and in sickness and health". You play the cards that have been given to you.
Yes, it is lonely; yes, you wish you could have mental and physical closeness with someone. But that "someone" is your life partner, and illness has taken her away from you. But she is still with you, there in your home and heart. You can talk to her, touch her - she does not know you anymore. But you do know her, you remember all the years you spent together. Do you really think you can push that aside and start with someone else, without your thoughts going back to your wife? You will feel guilty, and you really do not want that. It will haunt you.

My husband of 46 years didn't know me either - but I knew HIM! I talked to him as I would have under normal circumstances. I took care of him - the delight we took in each others company, mental and physical - were in my memory! When the loneliness tried to take over, I switched gears and thought of all the wonderful years we spent together and it gave me comfort and the strength to keep going.

You still have her - I have lost him, and believe me, the loneliness without him is much, much worse then the loneliness I felt with him in my care, although he did not know who I was.
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I do not have a spouse with A. but I have been divorced and remarried. I too believed that under NO circumstances while a spouse was still breathing (ie, alive) should one ever, ever get involved in any other relationship. IF a divorce occurred, it was also only to occur because one's spouse was unfaithful. Black and white. No gray areas here.
Let me say that I am in a marriage now that I am sure I will never follow up with another romantic relationship. Don't ask me how I can be so sure with what I am going to say, but with the experiences I have had in my life I know. You can believe me or not.
Here is what I have learned in 57 years on this earth. First, life is lived in the gray areas. We all look to some authority to let us off the hook when we ask a 'moral' question such as this one. But truly, no matter who tells you what, the truth of your life is between you and God. You can't hide from Him. I would probably say that if you are even asking 'is this moral' you already think not. Next, marriage takes two people to be in it. You have to be of 'sound mind' to enter any contract (some would argue that nobody who GETS married is! A small joke here...). A person with A. is not of sound mind and they are not 'coming back'. They have already left.
When two lonely people have dinner together, keep each other company, understand as nobody else ever would, having lost a loved one, one way or the other, I personally think there is no room for guilt here. At this point in my life, as I said before, God is my judge and really, who cares what anybody else thinks. As for sex, it is nobody's business what you are up to. When women are post menopausal and men struggle with ED and prostate issues, it takes a special motivation anyway. I still do love my husband and I love having sex with him, but neither of us is driven by the same level or urgency we once were. If you have to work at it, then I guess I am wondering why it needs to be so important in your life. I do get wanting to feel that old, great feeling of desire. Again, personal.
I am a Christian and I believe in marriage. I do not think beyond being dutiful in caring for a loved one who is 'lost' mentally is negotiable. But in order to pour something out of a pitcher, it needs to be refilled and refilled, over and over.
The other side of this coin is when spouses who are in A. care, in a home, form 'marriages' with others there and don't know their real spouses from Adam. I have known folks who go to visit their spouse and are decimated that the person they love doesn't give them the time of day but bonds to another person who has the same condition they do. Should you then blame the person with A. for cheating?
This is a whole can of worms that those of us who haven't walked in their shoes have no business casting judgement about. I would say, though, that you cannot look to anyone else to assuage your conscience. I would say, be respectful and discreet, know you will come up against judgement from some people and be prepared to deal with it, and never shirk your responsibility in caring for your spouse until they depart physically from this earth.
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Well, traditional marriage vows are for "better or worse til death do us part," which means it is never ok to seek a relationship outside the marriage. But with dementia, the moral issue is - are they still there, because at some point, they don't recognize us and there is really no relationship. I think, at that point, as long as you do not walk away from your responsiblity, it is up to you. Other people should not judge you. They will, but it shouldn't matter to you. I don't believe in harsh spiritual judgement, but a forgiving/understanding god/spirit, and I think in the afterlife, we all are more enlightened.

The other thing to consider it is that there is a difference between a friendship relationship and romantic/sexual relationship. Some would say the friendship is ok, but not the sexual. The problem is a friendship turning into something more.

If you don't already do so, you might want to consider social activities, not couples activities, or finding people with the interests/hobbies, and it would help the loneliness.
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