Loretta Devine and James Pickens, Jr.

Richard's had a rough year on Grey's Anatomy already having taken the fall for Meredith and stepped down as Chief of Seattle Grace. Now Adele's illness may pull him from the hospital altogether.

"Adele's Alzheimer's is progressively getting worse," James Pickens Jr. tells TVGuide.com. "It's obvious now that the Alzheimer's is making her a danger to herself and possibly others. We have something coming up that really brings the seriousness of her condition to the floor and forces him to act right away."

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The incidents — yes, that's plural — will take place in this Thursday's episode and will end up being the catalyst for Richard to realize that he can no longer leave Adele (Emmy winner Loretta Devine) alone.

While Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) insists that Richard check Adele into Rose Ridge — the same assisted living establishment that her mother, Ellis Grey (Kate Burton) once resided at — he's in complete denial. "He still loves Adele very deeply, and he doesn't want to think about the possibility that there may have to be some other options made in terms of her living arrangements and her being cared for," Pickens says. "He doesn't want to make that decision right now."

Meredith understands what Richard is going through. "She went through this thinking she could handle it herself, and then it just gets to a point where it's more than you can handle," Pompeo says. "No convincing by Meredith is going to make Richard OK with putting Adele in a home. He has to get to a place where he feels like it's his only option."

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"One of the big deterrents for him putting Adele in Rose Ridge is the fact that he visited Ellis there so much and those memories weren't particularly good ones," Pickens adds. "Now, the prospect of possibly putting his wife there is a little more than he can stomach right now."

In the middle of Richard's crisis, he'll also be faced with temptation when Jackson's mother, Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen), returns in the March 15 episode. "He and Avery's mom are back and forth with a little flirtiness," he says. Adds Pompeo: "That's going to make Richard feel guilty."

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.