In Sickness and in Health–Unless You Have Dementia?

March 16, 2022

Updated 3/16/2022

Dan Gasby sits down with me to discuss spousal caregiving in an exclusive interview:

Originally published: 2/2019

For those of you who don’t know the story of B. Smith & Dan Gasby, here is a quick look back. Dan Gasby is caring for his wife who is living with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease; B. Smith is currently in the late stages of the disease process. There is also a 3rd party
helping to care for B, as well; her name is Alex and she’s Dan’s girlfriend. Alex “allegedly” lives in the home with B. Smith and Dan and helps to take of care of B 24/7. Interesting right?

Now, here is the question “Is Dan Gasby wrong for having a girlfriend while his wife is battling Alzheimer’s disease?”

The answer…it’s not that simple. It’s not a one or two sentence response. First, one must understand the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. The disease destroys a person’s brain cells, ultimately resulting in death. Persons living with Alzheimer’s may revert back to previous life’s patterns (similar to that of a toddler) over time because they experience difficulty remembering, processing information, formulating thoughts, communicating, completing tasks, and executing plans. Therefore, the caregiving for such an illness is very taxing. It takes patience, understanding, skills, time, and sacrifice to be a successful Alzheimer’s caregiver.

Being a spousal Alzheimer’s caregiver can be a very lonely and isolating role, especially when the spouse’s mental capacity is diminishing. Of course, B. Smith is available physically and has moments of lucidity, but how many of you know that there is more to a loving relationship than just the physical? This is where the challenge comes in for B. Smith and Dan Gasby and many other couples exactly like them. The fabulous B. Smith that Dan Gasby married is disappearing right in front of his eyes due to her diminished mental capacity. In Dan’s world, he is losing the woman he married. So, in essence, he is going to go through at least 2 grieving processes; once as B loses her cognitive abilities and again when she dies.

We often talk about self-care when it comes to family caregivers since their health also takes a toll during the caregiving process. If caregivers take care of themselves then they are better equipped to care for their loved ones. If Dan is not healthy (physical, mental, and emotional) then he can’t take of B, increasing the risk of out-of-home placement. Now, I know some of you are saying that he can hire around the clock care for her in the home; but that’s only addressing a component of Dan’s well-being. Sure, his mental will be at ease because he knows that his wife is being taken care of, but what about his physical and emotional needs?

Now let’s look at the most important person in this whole entire scenario, B. Smith. B Smith was a world-renowned restaurateur, model, and tv host who absolutely loved people. Her illness has robbed her of her memory and her abilities, but not her soul. She still can feel love; and that’s what it is all about. Coming from a person-centered perspective, the love that B receives is of the utmost importance. And from what I am seeing, based on over 19 years of personal and professional experience, B. Smith is loved.

She may not even recognize her relationship to Dan or Alex, but that’s okay because she will always be able to feel someone’s intent towards her, and that seems to be all love. You may not like how their life is being played out in the public eye, but it’s just that…their life. If you’ve ever cared for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, then I think you can understand what’s going on here. Should Dan parade his girlfriend around in the public in such a way while his wife is battling Alzheimer’s disease? Well now, that’s a whole other discussion.