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Married but Alone: Elderly Couples Who Can No Longer Live under the Same Roof

Rachel Bachrach

Many of them have had wonderful marriages spanning over half a century. But now, their spouses are ill and incapacitated, and they can no longer care for them. A look at the painful reality of elderly couples forced to live apart due to medical conditions.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Whenever Mrs. Evelyn Rindner comes home, she turns on the news. It’s not because she’s interested — for the most part, she doesn’t even stay in the room — but because she needs some background noise in her apartment.

“You know, it’s just very quiet,” says Mrs. Rindner, seventy-six. “I always had people — the children, my husband. And now I come into the house, and it’s silent.”

That silence is just a small manifestation of the loneliness Mrs. Rindner must deal with, fifty-three years into her marriage. She’s still living independently at home, just outside Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York. Her husband Charles, however, is ten minutes away at a nursing facility, where he has been for the past three years.

“I’d love to have him at home, but it would be impossible,” Mrs. Rindner said. “We had no other choice.”

The Rindners are one of many elderly couples who no longer live together in the same location. This happens when one spouse has age-related cognitive or physical impairments and can no longer be cared for at home. The impaired spouse is placed elsewhere, usually in a long-term care facility. For all intents and purposes, long-term means permanent, and the expectation is that the patient will live out the rest of his or her life there.

Even though there are no official numbers, geriatric caregivers, experts, and administrators at long-term care facilities say anecdotal evidence indicates that such cases are becoming more common. And if the aging worldwide population is any indicator, this heartbreaking trend will only continue to increase.


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