How to Cope When Your Spouse Lives in a Care Home – One Couple’s Touching Story

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Knowing when it’s time to place a loved one with Alzheimer’s in a care home is one of the most difficult decisions a family member can face. Your heart is competing with logic, and you can begin to flip-flop on your decisions on a daily basis. And when you do decide that a care home is the best place for your loved one, the guilt and loneliness can be overwhelming.

Walt Zerrenner knows these feelings all too well. His wife, Aline, lives in a memory care facility, while he remains in the home they used to share. Though he is confident that it was the correct decision, he still struggles with guilt and questions whether he made the decision too soon. The loneliness of having his wife away from home is difficult, and hits him especially hard at night. Walt says keeping fit and busy staves off the worst of it, and he’s resolved to keep a positive outlook on their situation.

Photo: YouTube/New York Times

Photo: YouTube/New York Times

Walt visits often, taking Aline out on lunch dates. They frequent a restaurant that was inspired to become a dementia-friendly establishment after getting to know the couple. There are challenges that didn’t exist before – Walt and restaurant staff need to help Aline to the restroom, and deciding what to eat takes a while longer, but the couple is thrilled to be reunited. Walt muses that he never imagined he’d have the sort of patience that he now draws on, but he understands that it’s the disease causing the changes, not Aline herself.

Photo: YouTube/ New York Times

Photo: YouTube/ New York Times

The coping mechanism Walt and Aline find most helpful is a good sense of humor. Walt states that it has gotten them through many rough times, calling it the “universal language, you should use it as much as you can.” Instead of becoming upset at each other or their challenges, they choose to find the absurdity and humor in the situation instead.

For Aline’s part, she says that she doesn’t get mad or upset, because she can’t do anything about it. She says she must accept it, because it’s happening, “like it or not.”

See Walt and Aline’s inspiring story in the video below.

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TC currently lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest, bellied up to a sun lamp. In addition to writing, she enjoys photography and estate sales, and is the proud mother to an ever-growing collection of cacti.
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