When a spouse goes into a nursing home

Even as the signs of impending dementia became impossible to ignore, Joseph Drolet dreaded the prospect of moving his partner to a long-term care facility.

Mr. Drolet, 79, and his beloved Rebecca, 71, both retired attorneys and prosecutors in Atlanta, had been together for 33 years but lived in separate homes. In 2019, she began getting lost while driving, mismanaging her finances, and struggling with the TV remote control. The diagnosis – Alzheimer’s disease – came in 2021.

Over time, Mr. Drolet moved into his home with Rebecca (whose last name he wanted to keep secret to protect her privacy). However, since she needed help with every daily task, caring for her around the clock became stressful and untenable. Rebecca began wandering around her neighborhood and “getting dressed in the middle of the night to prepare for outings that didn’t happen,” Mr. Drolet recalls.

When he realized last year that Rebecca didn’t really know where she was anymore, he thought it was time to move her to a nearby memory care home.

Placing a spouse or partner in a nursing home, for whatever reason, represents a difficult transition for any couple, one that can mean relief from the sometimes crushing burden of caregiving but, according to studies, can also be associated with ongoing depression, anxiety, and Feelings of guilt can be shown.

“Having everything on my shoulders to look after a very vulnerable person – that stress is gone,” Mr Drolet said. After Rebecca left, “the 24-hour duties could be taken over by someone else.” His constant fear of what would happen to Rebecca if he died or became disabled also subsided.

Nevertheless, during his daily visits, Mr. Drolet felt that his exhaustion was “replaced by feelings of guilt and anxiety.” Was Rebecca cared for as well as he had cared for her? Although she seemed pleased, the answer, he said, was no.

After his visits, he said he would “go home to the house where everywhere I look is the reminder of her absence.” He cried during our phone call.

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