Thursday, 28 November 2013

The husband looking for new love as his wife, 52, is stricken by Alzheimer's. Is he callous? He says not - and their three children agree

The poignancy of his dilemma is written all over Keith Hall's face. He may say his mind is made up, but his furrowed brow and watery eyes reveal an inner conflict.

After all, it isn't easy to declare yourself ready to find a new partner when you're still married to the woman you've cherished for more than 30 years.

But then life is far from easy when Alzheimer's strikes at as young as 50 - as it did Keith's wife, Isobel. Fast-forward two years and her condition has deteriorated so quickly that she often forgets who he is.  Today she is in residential care, while Keith faces life in their attractive and cosy two-bedroom bungalow alone.

'I know it's controversial, but my life has to go on,' he says. 'I'm only 52 so that means finding another woman to share it with. I could have another 30 years with her - a whole new life - so where's the sense in waiting until Isobel dies before I start to look?' But meeting someone new in your 50s is hard enough without such a shocking admission as your opening line.

'I've already ruled out dating websites because I want to be totally honest,' says an emotional Keith, from Blyth, Northumberland. 'And who would give me a second glance if my online profile read: “Married, with a wife in residential care”?'

But what of until death us do part? There will be many who believe it wrong to move on before Isobel has died. To which Keith insists: 'Believe me, barely a day has passed without me thinking of our marriage vows. I know I promised we'd be together in sickness and health. I've battled with my conscience and the guilt has been unbearable at times, but after hours of soul-searching, I've reached the conclusion that there's simply no point in two lives being wasted.
I would like another relationship while she is alive, but I'd never divorce Isobel to marry someone else. That goes against everything I believe in. I would remarry after she died, but not while she was  alive.

'True, I could sit at home alone every night, sinking deeper into depression, but Isobel wouldn't want that for me, and I don't want it for myself.

'It's such a taboo subject, but I know I can't be alone in feeling this way. She probably won't live until her 80s, but I've not any idea if she will go on like this for a year, or another decade'.

Surprisingly, so far Keith, who is an engineer with a building maintenance company, has faced no opposition.

'Every person I've told - friends, family members, even casual acquaintances - has accepted it and agreed I should move on,' says Keith. 'Some were initially shocked, but then quickly told me I was doing the right thing.

Even the couple's children, Daniel, now 30, Darren, 29 and Leanne, 27, have given their father their blessing.

Darren, a decorator, says: 'I know Dad has got to move on, simply because he can't carry on living the way he is. He's so lonely on his own. It's a sad fact, but there's no relationship there any more. It wouldn't be fair to expect him to live like this for ever.

'But it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. Imagining him with someone else, thinking about another woman in my mum's place - that's really hard to accept. All we want is for Dad to be happy.'


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