September 16th, 2011
05:22 PM ET

Pat Robertson makes controversial Alzheimer's claims

Pat Robertson, former presidential candidate and well-known televangelist, gave advice on his TV talk show “The 700 Club" this week that doesn't sit well with some people familiar with Alzheimer's disease.

A viewer named Andreas asked about his friend, who started seeing another woman after his wife developed Alzheimer's: "He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone. I’m not sure what to tell him. Please help."

Robertson acknowledged that this is a "terribly hard thing" but also said the person in question is correct. "I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," he said.

"Isn't that the vow we take when we marry someone, that's for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer?" his co-anchor asked.

There is the vow of "till death do us part," but Alzheimer's is "a kind of death," he said.

Time.com: Pat Robertson's worst gaffes

Paul R. Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics in Atlanta, takes issue with the idea that spouses of Alzheimer's patients don't have to have any fealty to their spouses because of the disease.

"I think he misunderstands how important emotional support is to people with Alzheimer's. Except for the most extreme and close to death people with Alzheimer's, they respond to emotional context. The emotional part of their lives is the last part to go," he said.

It's extremely therapeutic in many cases for people to maintain relationships with their spouses with Alzheimer's, he said. There are situations in which a spouse will choose to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's or start a relationship with someone else while remaining married but will continue to remain connected to the Alzheimer's patient.

Wolpe is troubled by the idea that it's OK to abandon an Alzheimer's patient because he or she is already dead.

"I think abandoning a spouse because they have Alzheimer's is unethical. Divorcing them or not divorcing them isn't an issue to me so much; it's abandonment," he said. Robertson "did not say you have any responsibility to continue to try to support them emotionally, to visit them."

Not everyone took such a hard stance on Robertson's remarks. Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association, emphasized how stressful it is for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients to watch their loved ones in this condition, which can result in their grieving for a spouse while he or she is still alive.

As for whether Alzheimer's is a kind of death, Kallmyer said she understands that some people may see it this way but said this also raises the need for education about the disease. "That person, even in the end stages, is still a person with a full history and a life that's been lived," she said.

But it can feel like the person is slowly dying. Kallmyer and colleagues get calls from caregivers who don't know how to talk to their spouses anymore. To that, she says:

"Talk to them like you used to talk to them. Do you know a favorite song that you could sing? To continue to have those conversations, and when people in the later stages are engaged with like that, there is a reaction, people react, and they can benefit from that," she said.

If you have a question or need support, call the Alzheimer's Association's 24-hour hot line at 1-800-272-3900.

soundoff (863 Responses)
  1. priligy

    dapoxetine priligy 30 mg

    May 3, 2021 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. LebnEncox

    Grifulvin V https://xlnpharmacy.com/ Clomid

    May 3, 2021 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. instagram takipçi satın al

    Thank you for some other informative web site. Where else
    may I get that type of info written in such an ideal approach?
    I have a project that I am just now operating on, and I've been on the glance out for such info.

    May 3, 2021 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. GtnbCrulk

    viagra for the brain https://jokviagra.com/ blue chew viagra

    May 3, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. AnooEncox

    sГ­ntese do viagra http://llviagra.com/ – recept viagra torta viagra pour adolescent

    May 3, 2021 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. BbshMile

    how long will viagra last https://loxviagra.com/ – viagra on steroids get viagra

    May 4, 2021 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. GtnbCrulk

    does viagra help you last longer https://jokviagra.com/ best generic viagra

    May 4, 2021 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. LbsoZisse

    cialis black 800mg https://ucialisdas.com/ online pharmacy cialis cheap

    May 5, 2021 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RebfZisse

    cialis delivered in 24 hours http://rcialisgl.com/ – cheapest cialis on the web canadian cialis online

    May 6, 2021 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LbsoZisse

    generic cialis india http://ucialisdas.com/ generic canadian cialis

    May 7, 2021 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. FmrfEncox

    cialis 10 mg http://cialisee.com/ long term effects of cialis

    May 7, 2021 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JebgEncox

    safe canadian pharmacies canadian online pharmacies canadian online pharmacy no prescription

    May 7, 2021 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Leave a Reply to TooRelaxed


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.