The Associated Press is reporting that religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his “700 Club” viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death.”
“During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder.
‘I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her,’ Robertson said.”
“The chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which airs the ‘700 Club,’ said he wouldn’t ‘put a guilt trip’ on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness, but added, ‘Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.’ ”
“Most Christian denominations at least discourage divorce, citing Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark that equate divorce and remarriage with adultery.”
“Terry Meeuwsen, Robertson’s co-host, asked him about couples’ marriage vows to take care of each other ‘for better or for worse’ and ‘in sickness and in health.’ ”
” ‘If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part,’’ Robertson said during the Tuesday broadcast. ‘This is a kind of death.’ ”
“A network spokesman said Wednesday that Robertson had no further statement.”
It is interesting to note though according to the rest of the story that is it actually UNCOMMON for couples to divorce when a spouse is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“Divorce is uncommon among couples where one partner is suffering from Alzheimer’s, said Beth Kallmyer, director of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association, which provides resources to sufferers and their families.
“We don’t hear a lot of people saying ‘I’m going to get divorced,’” she told The Associated Press. “Families typically respond the way they do to any other fatal disease.”
The stress can be significant in marriages though, Kallmyer said, because it results in the gradual loss of a person’s mental faculties.
“The caregiving can be really stressful on a couple of levels,” she said. “There’s the physical level. There’s also the emotional level of feeling like you’re losing that person you love.”
“As a result, she said, it’s important for couples to make decisions about care together in the early stages of the illness, when its effects aren’t as prominent.”
I am beyond shocked that he would say leaving your ill spouse is OK. Michael and I joke about it, but I don’t think either of us would walk away from a 50-year marriage if one of us becomes very ill in our 60s or older.
We have a little dog that often I feel like I would love to find a new home. However, I feel we made a commitment to this little dog when we took him in eight years ago to care for him until he dies so I would certainly not leave a spouse! I can’t even leave a dog!
I watched my mother care for her mother with cancer and her brother with cancer so I understand the emotional and physical strain it would put on a spouse to care for their sick husband and wife. Plus, it’s your husband/wife suffering! However, I just don’t think you leave your spouse in that condition with strangers to care for them.
Does the caregiver need support? Yes. Do they have to do all the daily care by themselves? No. If they can afford help, they should have it. Do they need to get out and have a life outside of caring for their sick spouse? Absolutely! But I think it would reflect very poorly for a spouse to divorce a sick husband or wife.
I am wondering if Robertson thinks it’s OK to leave a spouse with any debilitating disease. Would he say leave them if they had cancer, heart disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis? My mom has RA. Should my dad walk out after more than 40 years of marriage?
OK so what do you guys think? What have your parents’ experiences been? Is it ever OK to leave?
(I had a super awesome Fun Friday topic with video that I moved to Monday. This was just too newsy to pass up! So check back Monday for my Fun Friday topic!)