A Different Kind of Love Story

Emotional and Physical Exhaustion

Deborah Klein* faced a dilemma–her husband Ike had stage 2 Alzheimer’s disease and she suffered from physical and emotional exhaustion but could not afford to hire help. “Our pensions were only adequate–certainly not enough to provide the care he needed.”

Deborah turned to Ike’s wealthy relatives for help, “They never cared much for me, so they thought I was exaggerating Ike’s condition, as if I were just gold-digging. It was easy for them to turn a blind eye, since they live on the east coast, and we’re in California. They had no idea what I was going through, because they didn’t want to know. Meantime, Ike was waking me up at all hours of the night, reminding me to feed the cats.”

The Social Worker Had Become Her Foe

So Deborah turned to local welfare authorities who assigned a case worker to the couple. The social worker was inexperienced with Alzheimer’s disease and rather than providing the aid and comfort of which Deborah was in such sore need, she aligned herself with Ike’s side of things which were affected in large measure by the paranoia that so often attends the disease. Ike was convinced that Deborah was inventing his symptoms and though he was being treated by a neurologist for the disease, he was so convincing that Deborah didn’t stand a chance against the social worker, who had become her foe.

When doctors discovered a recurrence of the breast cancer Deborah thought she’d beaten years ago, she knew she wouldn’t be able to continue to care for Ike much longer. The weakness that was sure to follow surgery and chemotherapy wasn’t going to mix with caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease. Having run out of options, Deborah decided to divorce Ike, thus forcing his family or the social worker to provide the care he needed.

“It was a painful decision, but necessary. There was no other way out of a situation that had become intolerable,” relates Deborah.

Once the divorce went through, social services stepped in and found a wonderful residence for Ike where he received the support and therapy he needed. Deborah visits him often. At first, Ike was angry, but later, he expressed appreciation for the solution that had been imposed on him. “The neighbors may talk,” says the brave Deborah, with a hint of wistfulness in her voice, “but they don’t realize that what they’ve witnessed is a different kind of love story.”

*Not her real name

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