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 (959 Responses)
  1. mike williams

    Since Robertson thinks huricane Katrina was God's punishment for gays in New Orleans, then I believe that the wild fires in Texas are God 's punishment for electing Perry Governor, the fire in Minnesota was God's punishment for electing Bachman, and the hurricane that hit New Jersey was God's punishment for electing Christie. Robertson's comments about people with Alzheiers is un excusable and I hope he burns in hell for it!

    September 16, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • twalk

      everytime I him on TV his head is bigger and his ears look more pointed. That statement like others in the past show his true colors. His followers have made HIM RICH.

      September 16, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
    • twalk

      everytime I see him on TV his head is bigger and his ears look more pointed. That statement like others in the past show his true colors. His followers have made HIM RICH.

      September 16, 2011 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
    • Johan S

      What about his prediction that a meteor would hit Orlando because Disney World allows gay people to work for them?

      September 16, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I don't agree with Pat Robertson at all but don't bring politics into this. This article has nothing to do with politics, it is religion. Your comments are offensive to people who have different beliefs, much like your own. I think the saddest thing is that I have to correct you on your abrasiveness and your manners. When are we going to drop the immature political team punches when this purely nonpolitical article should provoke a feeling of emotion; an emotion that should drive us as human beings to work towards a common goal of learning more about Alzheimer's, spreading the awareness of this disease, and letting people like Pat Robertson know that people afflicted with Alzheimer's don't deserve to be left alone from any family member or friend. Focus your rage into that and stop trying to emulate a liberal hero and stop acting like a child. Seriously now.

      September 16, 2011 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
    • Tex71

      Sam, your attack on mike williams is valiant but lame and without grounds in logic. Pat Robertson and his mindless drones are the first ones to mix politics with religion – they have made a fortune on that strategy for decades. You have no business chiding mike for responding in kind, quite pointedly I might add.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
    • Cyrus

      It's "inexcusable" Mike and I agree with you 100%.

      September 17, 2011 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  2. twalk

    Pat is wrong. That is not an appropriate thing for a christian man to say. He does not practice what he preaches. He would never have to worry about care for himself since his followers have made him rich. Pat there you go again. Sad.

    September 16, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • carla

      what I take issue with (an there are a lot) is that Robertson thinks spouses should forgive and stay with their spouse even tho they are beating the crap out of them. Perhaps he is suffering from Alzheimer's and his wife should leave him.

      September 16, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse |
    • allasia

      That is not an appropriate thing to say for ANY man. But then Pat Robertson was never a man!

      September 16, 2011 at 19:18 | Report abuse |
  3. Dirtbag Detector

    Please stop doing stories on this dirt bag hypocrite. People don't care what this bigot things.

    September 16, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • twalk

      A lot of people do because they have made him rich and are keeping him rich. Sad someone to use religion for their pocket.

      September 16, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
  4. David

    Pat Robertson confessed he himself has Alzheimers. He admitted this on his program la few months ago. true story.

    September 16, 2011 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • allasia

      I believe you. He must have already forgotten it!

      September 16, 2011 at 19:19 | Report abuse |
  5. BrianSoFla

    This moron Jesus F-A-G needs to die already! Everyone pray for his demise!

    September 16, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tex71

      Now, now, Brian. Don't lower yourself to the dirtbag's level.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse |
  6. Michelle

    More proof that people like Pat Robertson have NO moral high ground in anything.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ArkieOkie

    mike williams - you hope he burns in hell? Ouch! Whether his comments are inexcusable (which they are) or not it's certainly judgmental of you to hope that he burns in hell isn't it. I bring this up because I'm betting that your the type of person who either hates the bible altogether or loves to quote one verse from the bible, "judge not..."

    September 16, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christian, but not a nut

      When Jerry Falwell died, I knew that there were only two choices for his afterlife, both of which absolutely stun him. He would either wake up in Hell, or wake up in Heaven and be amazed who all is there with him. I think Pat will have the same shock.

      September 16, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
  8. Elizabeth

    OMG-maybe Pat was having an Alzheimer's moment when he said this-iI certainly hope so. My mother had Alzheimer's and my father while frustrated at times was mostly loving. He chreished my mother for better or worse and in sickness and in health. I would expect the same from anyone that has a partner for life.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Cheryl

    My father has Alzheimers! I am highly offened at what this so called religous leaders says. My father is my father and my mothers husband till he takes his last breath. Me and my siblings spend as much time with him as we can. He can still smile,hug and kiss us the same if not more as he did when he had his memory. My father worked hard and sacrificed for us all his life. How can anyone say he is dead because he has this disease? It is now time for us to give back the love and take care of him the same way he took care of us. If one of us were born with a terrilble brain disorder I am sure he would not just throw us off the bridge.Pat Robertson shame on you. You are really the devil and I have no respect for you.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jeffbo

    This man has always been an aszhole in my book.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. fernace

    It doesn't take religion to know Pat Robertson is extremely wrong about this subject! You do not abandon family members because they have debilitating, fatal diseases! You do the best you can to make sure they are comfortable in their last days! I believe the question was mostly about s.e.x.uality & needing that type of companionship, which the man in questions wife could no longer supply! To that I say, if you can't put your s.e.x.ual needs on hold, look at it from the stand point of your ailing spouse; she has had to put everything on hold, not by choice but due to a cruel disease that is taking it all away from her!If the tables were turned, what would she do? Zip your pants, stop being shallow & be true to your wedding vows! Certainly seek out friends & help, to not be overwhelmed, but don't start having affairs or worse, abandon your spouse when she needs you most! That's the answer Robertson should have given!!

    September 16, 2011 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suzette

      How very pious. It is so very easy to pass judgement. There are not enough details given to make such statements. We dont know how long they were married, what kind of marriage it was or how progressed her disease is. It amazes me how many perfect people are here commenting. I say, don't judga a man til you've walked in his shoes.
      As far as Pat Robertsons comments...... listen to the original, uncut version. He commented on a very difficult situation and did it with grace and respect. He NEVER said to divorce a spouse because they are sick.....he was commenting on the fact that the man is already dating someone else. The man has already left the marriage emotionally or he wouldnt be seeing someone else.....he might as well move on. The best he can bring to the marriage is resentment.

      September 17, 2011 at 18:16 | Report abuse |
  12. Richqrd

    I've been convinced for a long time that the God that I worship is not the God that Pat Robertson worships. Holy matrimony is just that – a blessed covenant between two people and their God. It isn't suddenly invalid if one of them contracts AIDS, or cancer, or Alzheimer's. Yes, that person with Alzheimer's has lost memories and the often the ability to care for themselves. But God still loves them and so should their marriage partner. Robertson is so wrong it is almost laughable, but he's going to hurt some sensitive, loving, and caring people.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Voiceinthewind

    We all know Pat Robertson is an air head with no access to a brain so why pay attention to him. He is a religious nut case.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill in VA

      You probably could leave out the religious part to make the statement all inclusive.

      September 16, 2011 at 20:02 | Report abuse |
  14. Ellen in CA

    Those of us who were married by clergy took a vow to God: In sickness and in health we would remain married to each other. Alzheimers disease is just that–a sickness, which will lead to death over a period of time. Other diseases, which affect other body parts, can also lead to death over a period of time. I wonder what would happen if we treated other diseases the way some people want Alzheimers patients treated? There is a big difference between death and contracting some disease which can lead to death.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Joshua Ludd

    Disgusting as usual.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Susie

    I am really just appalled at this statement. My grandfather passed away from Alzheimer's disease. It is a horrible and debilitating disease. When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and are living with it, that is when they need love the most. I would like to say Shame on Pat Robinson for making this statement, and shame on the 700 Club for not being embarrassed by this statement. Also, shame on the viewer Andreas for being an adulterer and trying to come up with an excuse to leave his loved one. Does fidelity mean nothing? I just hope and pray that if Pat Robinson or anyone who agrees with him is ever diagnosed with this horrible disease that their loved ones are more compassionate than they are. So shameful!

    September 16, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Lindalou

    When this man kicks the bucket, the world will be a little saner. His rants wouldn't be given an ounce of airtime if he didn't have money falling out of the air into his lap. Can't believe God lets someone like this scam innocent people out of their hard earned money in his name.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. TheenD

    Obviously Mrs. Robertson needs to start divorce proceedings immediately. He husband, Pat Robertson, is in the advanced stages of dementia.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tex71

      Best post of the day!

      September 16, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse |
  19. Ernestine Thomas

    This is why people like Robertson are ridiculed and rejected. How cruel to suggest that the spouse divorce the alzheimer's patient. He should not try to give anyone advice, especially as a supposed Christian authority. God would never sanction cruelty that way...people need to have a personal relationship with God and look directly to Him for guidance. No middlemen!!!

    September 16, 2011 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mrs. Robertson


    September 16, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. trickbunny

    It's funny- you would think that, the older someone gets, the better they would understand their fellow human beings and that they'd become, genrally, more mature... but becoming a crotchety, weird old man who decides that his every personal opinion about something is God's way or God's plan- and any thought that pops into his walnut-sized brain, no matter what that thought might be, it's decreed by God- is about as immature as it gets. What a freak.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. GeorgeBos95

    Robertson should be kicked to the curb for insensitivity...and stupidity.

    September 16, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. john

    Pat is the kind of person who give christians a bad name when there are a ton of good christians in the world. To say this is correct is absolutely absurd. I bet if the shoe was on the other foot, he'd have a different stance on the matter. But that's the problem with society today, people are ready to jump ship if life isn't "perfect". Well it isn't perfect but beware that karma is real and everyone gets what is coming to them one way or the other.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. clark1b

    at 24 I made an oath voluntarily to my wife (with God as my witness) to be faithful to her until death do us part. God doesn't allow for divorce except for infidelity and abandonment (in the Bible) ... he doesn't allow me to go back to Him when I am old and say "God, what I meant was until "kind of death". If Mr. Robertson is sincere ... then he needs to back up his teaching with verses in context from the Word of God.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. dina

    CNN, please don't give that m oron Robertson any publicity whatsoever.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mel

    Wow! May the judgements fly wildly and the hypocrity run wild!! Speaking from experience here... Until you have walked someone's journey (speaking from a caretaker's standpoint) then you can not speak on this subject. You do not know what you would do and are capable of handling put in the same situation. I feel for any caretaker (or loved one) of a loved one who has a dibilating disease or terminal disease, the caretaker IS a person who has needs too and more often than not has to put their needs last and eventually becomes emotionally drained or even worse ill themselves and dies. Of course the ill person has needs and should be taken care of. But let's not forget the caretaker is a person too! I bet the ill loved one would not want their spouse to have to go through all that themselves. I back Robertson with what he said here. Should the guy cheat instead????...that's against the bible...at least they can divorce before it happens. As long at the wife is taken care of and not left uncared for.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kym, Ohio

      A Question for you Mel. Would you feel the same if it were your son, or daughter? I doubt you would. If you did, you should just stop trying to be a person and morph into an amoeba. That's about how much heart you would have.

      September 17, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
    • Suzette

      I commented on your post already, Mel......seems it got lost somewhere. Just wanted to say.....I agree!!!!!

      September 17, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse |
    • What Happened To In Sickness And In Health?

      What happened to in sickness and in health? Or is that no longer applicable in our age of disposable human beings who become trash when they are no longer competent. The problem is not with a person having this disease or with a person being pushed to the limit of resources to care for a sick loved one. The problem is with a society that and a religion that makes it OK to throw people away. The finger is pointed in the wrong direction here. Pat's solution goes against the very nature of what he professes himself to be. What needs to be present is not a choice of divorce but a choice of support so that does not have to happen unless we are going to start considering people with diseases dead before they are buried.

      September 17, 2011 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
    • DCW

      To WHAT HAPPENED IN SICKNESS AND HEALTH: I've seen the effects of this disease between my own parents, and in the relationship of a couple who are long time family friends. It all comes down to what the caregiver can give. Don't judge them so harshly when it becomes too difficult. It's NOT a marriage when the husband's role becomes that of a nurse's aid–do you need it spelled out what that consists of? You're telling me that you'd want to do that to your own husband, the man you love? You'd put him through all that for the sake of fulfilling a promise he made years ago when things were FABULOUS? It's not love when we expect someone we love to suffer along with us.

      September 18, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
  27. Adriana

    This is just so wrong in so many levels. Just because the person is slowly degenerating, doesn't mean that it's over. The body is still alive. The sense of experiencing, is still there. We, those without alzheimer's, could learn a bit from them. One cannot just throw love out the window. I'm hoping the person asking this question, will make a wise decision. We are human, though...it's a tough issue, for many...I'm sure that person was there for you, when no one else was...think about that...

    September 16, 2011 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Kevin

    Pat Robertson proves he is a charlatan and downright evil. I am not religious, but I can totally understand Christians who despise Pat Robertson, since good Christians believe in "loving you wife as yourself" (Ephesians)

    September 16, 2011 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. aleppo1091

    *&%$ "Christian" ministers. My sister died a few years ago in August. In Nov=, hubby told the family minister he couldn't keep it in his pants any more – so the minister said bring in a bride. (Turned out the bride had already been involved with him while my sister was dying.) By Dec the kids were calling the new wife 'Mom.' I hope the ex bro in law & the minister end up in he-double L, but not until their current spouses cheat on them & they get an STD

    September 16, 2011 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Johan S

      The philosophy of Modern Christianity is based on hypocrisy. It's ok to do whatever you like because Jesus will save you. Meanwhile, it's OK to force others to change their lifestyle.

      September 16, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
  30. Eric

    CNN is misconstruing what Mr. Robertson said because it doesn't like him and gets a kick out of painting him a bad light. (By the way, I'm not a Pat Robertson fan and don't find him far from a crackpot. But that doesn't make twisting his words ok.)

    Re-read what he said. He didn't say anything about abandoning the sick spouse - he specifically said the asking spouse should make sure the sick spouse "has custodial care and somebody looking after her." Does anyone here really read his words as suggesting the healthy spouse just walk away?

    Yet CNN then goes on to hear from people talking about how abandoning a spouse with Altzheimers is a bad thing - as if that were what Mr. Robertson had suggested.

    As is often the case with CNN, the article isn't factually inaccurate - the facts are there if you're careful to look for them - but look for them you must. They shade and play with those facts in a way that presents a false picture. That's not journalism, that's lying.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. TCVAN

    It's a terrible disease, but they're not dead until they're dead. Robertson is "dead" wong on this one.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill in VA


      September 16, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse |
  32. oh please

    no one cares about these religious people, they are all lies after all....they believe in God....the biggest lie ever

    September 16, 2011 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Steve

    What a buffoon. He and Rick Perry are cut from the same cloth, and people actually listen to these nut jobs. Remember the skit on Saturday Night live several years back when Al Frankin played Pat Robertson on Church Chat? He was right on the money. Oops, did I say money? If there is a hell, Pat Robertson will certainly end up there!

    September 16, 2011 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. DYBO

    Pat is a crusty old f*rt that looks like he is one step away from sometimers himself. ( sometimes you remember- sometimes you don't) He is definately building bad Karma with his latest statements. You will be wearing diapers again someday Pat-

    September 16, 2011 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Lila

    Unethical and immoral response by Robertson. When your spouse has a horrible disease like Alzheimer's, that's when they need you the most, never turn your back on them. They are helpless and can't care for themselves.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. MashaSobaka

    Pat Robertson said something hurtful and cruel that betrays his complete ignroance of ethics and morality?! I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

    September 16, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. KC

    I thought that this was the way the right wingers liked their women.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Corvus1

    I think a spouse having Republican is plenty good enough reason for divorce...

    September 16, 2011 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. PaulC

    What can you expect from a Christian of Convenience? So much for "in sickness and in health".

    September 16, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Stacey

    Did anyone else read this as "Robert Pattinson?"

    September 16, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Travis

    We all know this guy is a senile windbag. Can we please stop talking about him now?

    September 16, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. kathie

    So much for the parts of the vows which say " 'til death do us part" and "in sickness and in health". Can we assume that he doesn't believe in the "honor, cherish, keep, and be faithful to" parts either?
    Wow, what a complete moron.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. kdstimson

    I don't know how a so called Christian can utter such phrases, so he is saying that I should have abandoned by father to Alzheimer's because my mother had passed away and he was basically dead then. What utter garbage spews out of the man's mouth. Thank god, my God saw fit not to let my father linger without my mother and let him join her weeks after her death and knew that they needed to be together in eternity. Thank you God......

    September 16, 2011 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. willie

    Whenever I see Pat Robertson in the news, or any other televangelist for that matter, I'm instantly reminded of how many gullible people there are in America...

    September 16, 2011 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. mongopoo

    Robertson is a pig.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Chaos

    Pat Robertson before >>> Persistent Vegetative State = Alive and kicking.

    Pat Robertson now >>> Alzheimer is "a kind of death".

    September 16, 2011 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Joe

    There is nothing that Pat Robertson could say at this point that would surprise me. He should truly be ashamed of himself; however, we should pray for him instead of condemn him because that's what he needs. There are too many people that believe what he says to be the gospel and with prayer we can change that.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • glsp

      You're right. This is what we, as Christians are supposed to be doing. Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.

      September 18, 2011 at 01:27 | Report abuse |
  48. Erik

    This is unbelievable! Why should he allowed to even be on spouting this garbage! My mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I admire how my father has done everything he can to take care of her needs because he loves her and is a caring man. For someone to divorce their spouse because they have Alzheimer's is cowardly in my opinion.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Bill in VA

    I guess I can believe he believes it. Why would he make up such a stupid lie? I can't believe he was stupid enough to actually say it (though this is haly his first stupid utterance). I wonder if he just learned his wife has Alzheimer's. I know, that was sick.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill in VA

      should read.... hardly his first stupid utterance

      September 16, 2011 at 20:09 | Report abuse |
  50. Chris

    I'm in favor of letting advanced Alzheimer's sufferers take their own lives. Does that make me worse than Pat Robertson? Because I've always thought he was a low-life.

    September 16, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ralph in Orange Park, FL

      Exactly how would an advanced Alzheimer's sufferer figure out how to commit suicide?

      September 17, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
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