Healthy Living

Keeping A Committed Relationship in the Face of Parkinson's

Keeping A Committed Relationship in the Face of Parkinson's

Coping with Parkinson’s disease takes the prayers of a saint, the power of Superman, and the patience of Job, and that’s just the patient. If you are the caretaker and spouse of someone with Parkinson’s, you will be crowned with sainthood for putting up with the denial, helplessness, anger, and withdrawal. 

Living with a strong, independent and healthy individual is what you wanted when you got married. Living with someone who is chronically ill and depressed, and has difficultly moving, performing, and doing daily tasks is not the life you wanted.

In a recent Dear Abby column, this question was published:

“I’m a 72-year-old married woman. My husband has atypical Parkinson’s and can no longer talk or walk … I need someone to talk to, to share life with. I tell my husband what I do each day, but of course, there is no feedback. …

“Can I date? If I explained to him how I need companionship, he might agree. But am I being selfish? … I feel like my life is over. … I feel like I’m dying.”

The feelings of caregivers are just as strong and conflicted as those feelings of the patient with Parkinson’s disease. What should partners do?

The dilemma: Should you stay committed to someone with Parkinson's?

To the dilemma in the case of the 72-year-old woman, Abbie replied, “I think it would be not only selfish but cruel to tell your husband you need companionship and want to seek another relationship. How would you feel if you were in his position, unable to walk or talk, and he said that to you?”

Interesting to think about, isn’t it? Sometimes when you live with someone with Parkinson’s, they become a “thing.” They are the person you take care of, not the person you pledged to love in “sickness and in health, ‘til death do you part.”

How do you argue the point that as a caretaker, you need companionship, love, and someone else to share your life with? What is moral and what is right?

You can’t go back in time and look through a mirror and see the future. If you had known your partner would become someone with Parkinson’s, would you have married him/her? Or, would you take the noble path and vow to take care of them “’til death do you part”?

If your loved one was able to give you advice, what would they say? You know they want you to enjoy your life, stay in touch with friends, be with other family members and grandchildren, but would they want you to date?

There are those who would undoubtedly give their consent, and they might even be happy with that decision. For example, there was a request recently from a man whose wife had a debilitating disease. She was left in a wheelchair and unable to even feed herself. She told her spouse to go on a dating site and find someone who would be willing to be in a relationship with a married man who had a disabled wife. Yes, there are dating sites that promote “three-way” relationships.

There is no follow-up to this story, but it can be hoped that the man in the relationship found the right happiness he was seeking.