The complex emotional toll of Alzheimer’s has been in the news the past week. The Washington Post wrote an article about B. Smith, the model, restaurateur and lifestyle guru who has early-onset Alzheimer’s and how her husband has formed a relationship with another woman. B. Smith’s loyal fans were not happy about this development.
Dan Gasby tried to defend himself amidst withering criticism, saying in interviews that B. Smith told him to “go on” after her diagnosis in 2014. He says he’s a better caregiver to his wife now that he’s happier.
Gasby has at least one high-profile supporter: Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan. In her essay, titled, Alzheimer’s is a cruel thief. Don’t blame caregivers for still finding joy, she reflects upon the emotional devastation an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can bring and what that can do to a couple. She encourages the public to be more sympathetic to those in Gasby’s position.
The issue is at its heart an emotional gut-punch so the fact that it inspires heated opinions is not surprising. What I’ve learned over the years as a family caregiver for someone with dementia is that I wouldn’t want someone to judge my choices and so I try to refrain from judging others, as long as no harm is being done. While I may not make the same choice as Gasby has made, I cannot rule it out completely either. Those who are outraged on social media would better use their energy volunteering at a memory care center or arranging respite care for a caregiver in their life.
As Patti Davis says, Alzheimer’s is a cruel thief. How much should we allow the disease to steal from caregivers?