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How to motivate someone that gave up a long time ago?

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    How to motivate someone that gave up a long time ago?

    Hi all, I've been reading this forum for a long time and finally decided to register. I'm frustrated beyond the point of breakdown, but still remain hopeful.

    I don't even know how to explain my husband's disability as it was never explained to us. He had a spinal cord lipoma removed 13 years ago. At the time of surgery he was working as an auto mechanic. Because he worked for a small employer, they weren't required to hold his job for 3 months while he recovered, so he was let go a couple of weeks after surgery, which meant he no longer had insurance, which meant he never got any physical therapy.

    Fast forward a few years, even though he walked out of the hospital fine but weak, he started using the surgery as an excuse to do less and less. He eventually stopped doing anything but sitting on the couch and took to walking with a cane (where he didn't immediately after surgery). After several years of this frustration, I began an application for him to receive Social Security disabiltiy as we had 5 children at the time that needed support, and I couldn't do it all alone. He was approved on the first go-round, to him that was the license he needed to continue sitting on the couch. After another 2 years, his Medicare kicked in and I encouraged him to talk to his doctor about receiving the physical therapy he never received in the beginning even though it had been 10 years. He was sent to UVA where they made him a KAFO for his left leg, trained him on it a couple of times and released him.

    Since that time, he has gone down hill dramatically, we can't go anywhere because he can't even step up a simple curb with his cane. The last two times we've gone anywhere, it required one of our adult sons to help him take a simple step up, so going out to dinner or anything is out of the question at most locations. This isn't an indication of progressive illness but rather, an old attititude that it is what is is and it can't be changed, that I can't seem to get through to him that it is NOT the case. I'm so frustrated I don't know what to do anymore. I'm not expecting him to run a marathon, but for God's sake, just move off the couch for more than the 10 feet it takes to go to the bathroom a couple of times a day. I encourage him to come to this forum and see what others are doing by putting in a lot of hard work, but he just doesn't seem to care and prefers to use his problem as an excuse for exreme laziness. It's to the point I'm considering divorce, except I've already asked him to leave and he won't. The house and everything is in my name since he hasn't worked for 13 years, and I'm afraid if I put him out (if I can even do so legally since he won't leave on his own) that not only will I be supporting the kids alone, but likely have to pay alimony for the rest of his life since by law I have "allowed" this for 13 years.

    The only light in any of this is that he has an appointment tomorrow to be evaluated for the Ness L300 foot drop system. If it works for him, maybe it will motivate him to put in the work he needs to, if it doesn't it will reinforce in his mind that nothing can be done, and just give him another excuse to sit on the couch 24/7. Right now he is so weak, but its not due to the injury. I tell him all the time that if I sat on the couch for 13 years I'd be in the same condition, but nothing I say or do will motivate this 54 year old man with old thought patterns ingrained in his head.

    Please help, offer anything you have. I see tomorrow as being my last attempt, my last chance to give him, myself and our children the life we all deserve to enjoy. And yes, we've discussed having the mental/emotional part evaluated but he plays things off well with the doctors and sadly most of them believe him when he says nothing can be done to make his life more manageable (I've found that I am often more informed then a general practioner, so he uses them against my research).

    Motivation is not something you can do to another person. It has to come from within. If he is happy with his situation, and has no desire to do anything other than be a couch potato, then it is likely that he will continue in this.

    On the other hand, if you are not happy with this situation, you need to make a decision about how unhappy you are, and if you want to continue in this relationship. I would recommend you sit him down and tell him that you find the situation intolerable, and that if nothing changes, you will be leaving. Give him a deadline. If he cares about saving the relationship, perhaps he will take some action. If not, it is time to move on for you.

    The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.


      KLD is the smart one around here. Take her advice. The only other thing I might add is can you possibly write down your concerns and secretly hand it to his physician at the appointment? Sounds like he is severely depressed because of his pain/problem/condition may feel like a failure himself. They may be able to help with some antidepressants.
      Please let us know how tomorrow goes. Good luck and stay strong for the kids!


        Hello, BG

        Thanks for posting ~ I know how much nerve it takes. I had a number of thoughts about your situation, in no particular order.

        - It's so hard to watch somebody CHOOSE to be incapacitated. In the early days of my spouse being at home, there was maybe a month when I did not recognize him & felt nothing but terror that my determined husband had vanished forever.

        - Can you sell the couch? Put a lock on the bedroom door? Make it a lot harder to do nothing than it currently is? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

        - Do you know anybody who is truly neurologically unable to do what he will not do? A talk with such a person might be worth more than all your frustration.

        Good luck, hope the meeting goes well.



          It sounds like your husband has developed "learned unuse". It is one of the reasons behind treadmill theraphy and walking programs. If you stop using the neurologic skills, you loose them. He probably can't get up the curb on his own now, even if he wanted to. There are a number of rehab programs that push to retrain the neurological loss.

          It sounds as if your husband needs to understand that it is possible to regain function as well as find someone who will help him regain what he lost.

          Good luck but know it is possible.
          Every day I wake up is a good one


            It's playing dirty, but can you cancel the cable? And the internet? Anything so he has to get moving a bit to avoid boredom. Selling the couch is a good idea.

            Sometimes, getting out in the world can have a positive effect on depression. Try taking him to some places for fun. Movies, parks, zoos, swimming pool... Get him to help you with stuff around the house, like folding clothes and fixing meals, so he has something to feel good about. Don't correct how he does it, even if it's not the way you like it. And don't make a huge fuss about it, just kind of drop doing it into his lap (literally, with the laundry), and tell him you're swamped. If he literally does nothing all day, it'll tire him out to do it.

            Also, make sure you reduce the pain he's in as much as possible. He might need a stool for cooking/dishes, for example. Or a wheelchair to go on outings - but he can exercise his arms
            getting around in it, although you'll probably need to push the chair quite a bit at first. I'd make getting him interested in living the first priority, and once that's managed he should get interest in improving his physical condition.
            Last edited by PhoenixFiresky; 30 Dec 2011, 1:12 AM.


              I am very sorry to hear your story.

              Does he have a physiatrist/rehab doctor? I doubt this, but this type of doctor should understand his injury, his rehab potential, the depression contributor, and his options. What he needs is an inpatient hard core rehab program, that he never got all those years ago. With the correct referral, I wonder if this is possible. I have seen this done when patients decline over time.... and at some of the major rehab hospitals patients regularly get re-admitted for "tune ups". Of course, he might refuse. Or it might be hard for you to find one.... If a University hospital is nearby, it might have an inpatient rehab and KLD might know if they are reputable at all. At a minimum, it is nothing for one of his doctors to write a script for "gait training, deconditioning" to set him up in another outpatient rehab program. This should be at least 2x per week for a few months.... more if he makes progress. Medicare will pay for it, and there are no caps on rehab as long as it is done at a major hospital center.

              I would chose the doctor that you respect the most and that your husband is most likely to listen to, and talk with them on your own. Try to keep calm, but make it clear as you did in your post. To me, your husband has dug himself a hole and someone has lend him a hand or he may never come out. And that person may not be you.

              I feel like he must at a minimum accept a psychiatric evaluation and treatment for his depression, and more rehab. My dream for him would be to get him back working on cars again, if he enjoyed that in the past.

              It sounds like it is time for you to give him a choice........ and you will leave if he chooses the couch.


                I'm wondering if your husband understands just how close you are to leaving the marriage? Have you had a long, in-depth conversation with him outlining your frustrations and the reasons you're considering divorce? Does he want to save the marriage? Would he be willing to go to a marriage counselor? Forgetting the idea of "therapy" that a lot of people - and I think men more than women - have trouble accepting, sometimes an objective third party can help clarify a situation.There are two sides to every story, however the question is whether there can be compromise and resolution that is satisfactory to both.

                I have to think that if you didn't love your husband and weren't of a mind to do your best to save your marriage, that you would have left long ago. But, as you know, it takes two people to make a marriage work. Only you will know when you've reached a point of no-return and it is time to move on. You've been given some great ideas. Whether or not your husband will be willing to act upon any of them, even knowing what is at stake, I don't know. I guess a lot depends on whether the majority of his actions over the years have stemmed from him finding a way to let out his inner lazy person and he's okay with that, or if he has been suffering depression all these years and been unwilling to seek help. There comes a point with depression that someone will need help to deal with it. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" just doesn't always work. If depression is his first sticking point, then perhaps realizing that his marriage is truly in serious danger might be the wake-up call he needs to finally seek help.

                Good luck to you.
                Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
                - Albert Einstein


                  Don't be afraid to end it if you have to ... you shouldn't have to live like that while supporting five kids too.

                  (How many children came after the injury?)
                  Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

                  T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12


                    Your hubby seems to have major Depression and is quite sly w medical professionals - to them (all AB's probably) his disability looks as incapacitating and unfortunate as he paints it. I'm sure he would avoid this board like the plague as his disability looks pretty minimal when compared to what others here contend with. Yet, Depression is real and in this case maybe more incapacitating than severe SCI as far as being able to move on w life. I had a grand nephew who was cheerful, handsome, strong, vocationally successful - until he hung himself in the basement a few years ago. Depression is invisible. Your hubby needs a really good therapist who will see through his games and probably medication concurrently. Once his Depression starts to lift he could probably largely rehab himself at home w a stationary bike , some therabands and a gym membership.

                    Especially if your hubby is a macho man it will be so much easier for him to palm off all his problems on a physical disability rather than admitting to Depression and committing to treatment. For a macho man, Depression is a wimp's disease.


                      Sounds to me like he needs to spend some time with someone who has a more severe injury, and the neuro pain that goes along with that. Let him see how fortunate he is and how hard others work on a daily basis to remain physically active and fit. If you cant get him off the couch get him to watch some videos of others.

                      If you live in VA I know a trainer that can help him if he ever gets to that point.

                      You deserve a life, go out and get it, maybe he will follow and learn from you.


                        Originally posted by BGinVA View Post
               him that was the license he needed to continue sitting on the couch.

                        .......This isn't an indication of progressive illness but rather, an old attitude that it is what is is and it can't be changed, that I can't seem to get through to him that it is NOT the case.

                        .......but he just doesn't seem to care and prefers to use his problem as an excuse for extreme laziness.

                        .......Right now he is so weak, but its not due to the injury.

                        .....but nothing I say or do will motivate this 54 year old man with old thought patterns ingrained in his head.

                        ........he plays things off well with the doctors and sadly most of them believe him when he says nothing can be done to make his life more manageable.
                        Your husband is beyond lazy, he's simply a user and a manipulator.


                          I'm speaking from experience here, as the injured spouse. You are not going to be able to change, bribe, coerce or otherwise motivate him to change unless he is ready to do so himself. "Punishing" him like a child by lecturing or taking away his cable or other things that he does throughout the day is only going to build resentment and place you in a parental role in his mind, which is death to a relationship.
                          We don't know you or him, or your personalities... but if you're unhappy you truly have to be responsible for yourself, and if you cannot tolerate it I would recommend you leave.


                            "To thine own self be true.."People have been through so much more and have at least tried....Take care of yourself and your children...sounds to me like you have done more than your "fair share"