When your partner has Alzheimer’s
Wanda Braveman joins me today to share her personal story through her book, “White Knight: Living with Alzheimer’s Moment by Moment.” The book details her difficult journey with a partner who had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She talks about how their relationship changed, issues of consent, and their sex life while sharing her powerful story.
Background of their Relationship
Wanda reminisces about her first encounter with her husband, Joe, and their connection on their first date. After their heartwarming encounter, Wanda says they had no contact with each other for a year until Christmas time when they finally got together and ended up getting married 9 months later. Discussing their relationship before Alzheimer’s, Wanda talks about Joe’s achievements of high diving in high school and his high intelligence. They had an incredibly passionate sex life and a normal married life. Four and half years into the marriage, they realized that Joe couldn’t read the time on his watch, which they mistook for poor eyesight. Later, she realized they needed a doctor after Joe couldn’t remember his social security number or his co-workers’ names.
Sexual Relationship After Being Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
Wanda’s husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 57. They continued having a sexual relationship; Wanda says, “It was like saying goodbye.” Seven months into the diagnosis, their sexual relationship took a turn when the act was no longer filled with tenderness and romance, but something that could quickly have turned into sexual assault. Wanda then took action to put a stop to it. While there are many books about the clinical aspect of Alzheimer’s disease, there were none about how Alzheimer’s feels from a personal perspective. It was a book that Wanda needed when she had no one to talk to about her experience as she was going through it.
Wanda describes the advancement of Alzheimer’s as inconsistent. As their lovemaking stopped, Wanda was concerned that, since his inhibitions were lowered, he might attack other women or their daughters due to his sexual frustration. Their relationship took a turn from being intimate to Wanda assuming the role of his mother and taking him to work every morning.
Role of Consent
Wanda combined his dislike of showers with lovemaking, intending to give him pleasure; a ‘loving gesture’ as Wanda says. She grappled with how consent played out in the later years. She realized their relationship dynamic and the context of him reciprocating loving actions, such as rubbing soap and confessing his love to her, made it clear that there was consent. However, she emphasizes that what was right for their relationship in this context isn’t right for everyone.
Wanda learned to take her pleasure into her own hands and recognized how to take care of herself in a healthy way.
Dealing with Grief
While Wanda battled with grief during this time period, noticing Joe’s happiness, she learned to be in the moment and savor it. Although she experienced grief with every change that occurred, and then some more, later on, she stayed present with him. Wanda’s book is used in her husband Steven’s therapy practice called, “Care for Caregivers”, where they focus on how caregivers feel and deal with their loved one’s disease.
Wanda’s book addresses caregiving for everyone including mothers, children, spouses, or those with full-time jobs. It applies to everyone, including people of the LQBTQ+ community who are in a loving partnered relationship with a partner diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. She leaves us with parting words, urging people to stay and live in the moment with their loved ones even when it’s difficult to assume a role.
Wanda offers a fresh new approach to ISGC with her memoir, “White Knight: Living with Alzheimer’s Moment by Moment”, and her warm counseling style. She makes caregiving a personal experience and enjoys sharing her life-gained wisdom and experience with others. In addition to the day-to-day management of our center as an Office Manager, Wanda is the founder and leader of our cutting-edge group, Care for Caregivers Group, based upon her book. She designed this group to enable people to become their own “White Knight” through learning and practicing self-care methods, as well as a positive, stay-in-the-moment philosophy, and to apply these principles to their work with loved ones who need their care. “You have to take care of yourself first!” This group is also for professional caregivers; it’s our experience that all caregivers need support. Wanda also co-leads our Monterey Transitional Support Group for the Transgender Community and our Sacred Sexuality/Tantra workshops for those seeking a closer connection with themselves and their beloved.
Sex Health Quiz – https://www.sexhealthquiz.com
The Course – https://www.intimacywithease.com
The Book – https://www.sexwithoutstress.com
Podcast Website – https://www.intimacywithease.com
Access the Free webinar: How to want more sex without it feeling like a chore: https://intimacywithease.com/masterclass