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Friday, 16 November, 2007

Alzheimer's love story captures public imagination

The of former US Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor's Alzheimer's-afflicted husband John and a fellow nursing home patient named Kay tugged at the public's collective heart strings this week.

Justice O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court in 2005 to take care of her husband (pictured right with her in 1998), who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 17 years ago.
Justice O'Connor is reportedly happy that her husband has found love again. He'd earlier been wracked by depression and suicidal thoughts. "Mom was thrilled that Dad was relaxed and happy and comfortable being here," their son Scott told Veronica Sanchez, the Arizona reporter who broke the story.
The story came out quite by accident, says Ms Sanchez. It was "dumb luck," she Poynter Online. "The director at Huger [Mr O'Connor's nursing home] told me she had two families willing to speak on camera but that only the sons would be doing the interviews. When I pressed to speak to the wife in question, that’s when I discovered the wife was Sandra Day O’Connor. I dropped the phone."

The love story closely echoes that told in the recent Canadian film , based on a short story by Alice Munro called “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” In it, a husband must accept that his wife (played by Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, left) has fallen in love with a fellow Alzheimer's patient in her nursing home.
Such relationships are fairly common among demented patients. “It’s not uncommon at all for families and spouses to allow this to go on, because it sustains a person’s happiness,’’ Dr Richard Powers of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America New York Times health blogger Tara Parker-Pope. “Those of us who have had this disease in our families know you just have to roll with these changes. Let them have a friend, if it buys them a day of happiness.’’

Images: ABC News, Capri Films
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