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joyces (@joyces)

Major Changes as Spouses Age

Aging Well | Last Active: Oct 23, 2020 | Replies (51)

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Reply to Scott, Vol. Mentor: My husband is five years younger, now 73. We went through the big life changing event a couple of years before we were married, when he was diagnosed as diabetic…and turned out to be very brittle (blood sugar levels often have little relationship to logical things like food and exercise vs. insulin taken. Our primary doc at the time kept impressing on both of us that we could live normal lives in spite of the disease, and, for years, we did.

He current level of helplessness was brought on when he announced he had retired and therefore would do nothing because he had "earned" it. He's been shown at various times that doing any sort of exercise quickly reduces his lower back pain, but he refuses to admit that's the case. He was able to work full time, fish weekends, even add three evenings a week of dialysis to his routine before his transplant, but the transplant, instead of meaning he was free from dialysis and a very strict diet, meant that he spends all day reclining or lying down with no exercise, which increases the back pain. He's been told by several docs that he needs to move to reduce the pain, but he flat refuses.

At the same time, I've lived with the limitations of Meniere's for nearly 40 years without allowing it to take over my life. At 77 (won't be 78 for over a month) I hike in difficult terrain as a volunteer data collection person for our state fish & game agency. Although I have zero normal balance function, I do vestibular rehab every day to maintain my ability to move about. Some of the instream surveys I do are a challenge to far younger people; we've hung ropes at various extremely steep places to aid us in covering our basic surveys. I might have "wussed out" when I first had serious problems with Meniere's, but my son had set an excellent example when he had a disc in his back deteriorate when he was only 16: although told that he basically couldn't do anything because the problem would spread up and down his spine, he asked for back exercises, does them daily (he's now 56), does some active exercise every day, and keeps his weight in check. He was originally told that he'd wind up in a chair, but he continues to hike, play softball and basketball, care for the acre he lives on. It is possible to decide how well you want to live when you have a chronic problem, whether or not you're going to allow it to run your life. When I was initially diagnosed, the doc told me to "quit your silly job, stay in bed, and take Valium." Fortunately, I didn't do that so am now far more active than my contemporaries–"in spite of" the disease.

Again, the pain levels of my husband's disease are actually lessened when he can be beaten into moving. His problem is far different than something that can't be made better or a disease that is progressively worse regardless of what you can do.

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Replies to "Reply to Scott, Vol. Mentor: My husband is five years younger, now 73. We went through..."

@joyces I applaud you, for forging on, and your son. The story of your son reminds me a bit of my niece's son. He was born physically disabled due to cerebral palsy. The doctors said he would never walk. My niece would not take that sitting down. She worked with him every day and he now is in his 20s and runs 10Ks. Her husband left after the son's birth, he apparently could not deal with it.
I too am of the tenacious type that tends to not allow myself to be sidelined. My PCP has expressed that to me numerous times. I can't imagine being any other way. Even when I was having bad days prior to my liver transplant, I resisted having my husband doing things for me.
That all being said, I think for your own sanity, since you can't even "lead the horse to water", you do need to seek counseling for yourself for help in dealing with your situation. Most insurance plans do cover some counseling and you would probably not need many sessions.
Does your husband really understand how much he is damaging his own health, and that he could end up in assisted living? I have read that if your spouse is diagnosed as having Alzheimer's the best thing to do is to get a divorce so that you are not liable for assisted living expenses. I would think that would be true of any long-term condition that would require assisted living, as difficult as that would be. It is something I have given thought to and realize how nearly impossible it would be, because my husband's father, aunt, and cousin have all had it. At this point he is older than any of them when they developed it so hopefully he is in the clear. Very few people are prepared for the expense of long term assisted care unless they purchased long-term insurance. We did not, and I just always assumed I would die quickly as both of my parents did, from heart attacks. My heart is pretty good though.

@IndianaScott I knew your wife had passed away from cancer but did know the other problems you have overcome. You are obviously a very strong person. I hope I could be that strong if faced with problems such as yours. Not everyone is, some do just succumb to them and stop trying to overcome.

@gingerw I can imagine how difficult your situation must have been, but you had the strength to do the smart thing. I think that decision gets far more complicated when there are children involved, and if the person leaving the marriage cannot be financially independent. Regardless though, it is never easy to leave a relationship that you have invested years in.