My husband won't try and I'm tired!

Shadowmoonwitch asked...

I have been taking care of my husband who broke his hip and now won't do much. He has recovered, but is afraid to try much. I feel guilty because I am getting so tried, so frustrated, and so worn out, life doesn't have much fun for me anymore. I am getting mad at him, that he won't try to do anything. Man, life is so hard, life stinks, I wish I could just run away. Help.

Expert Answer

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

It sounds like you are walking uphill with a lot of additional weight, and it is understandably fatiguing. It is not clear to me, however, why your husband "won't do much." If he still has pain or instability in his hip, he should be carefully evaluated to determine what needs to be done to improve his functioning. This could be done by an orthopedic surgeon, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, or perhaps by a physical therapist. If his hip is really fixed, and the problem is that he has lost confidence or has become depressed, he may need a different kind of help.

In that case, I would suggest he see, ideally with you, a mental health professional. If you don't know of a mental health clinician to see, your primary care physician could help. It sounds from your letter like he may be depressed or may have some other treatable mental health problem. A loss of energy, loss of confidence, hopelessness, social withdrawal and a lack of ability to enjoy himself all could be a result of depression. His hip problem may have been a wake up call for him that he is vulnerable to injury, which may have triggered a depression. The pain he had either from his hip fracture or the surgery to repair it, or problems he likely had with insomnia may have triggered a depression. It is possible that pain medication he took triggered a depression. It may be there are things important to him he couldn't do and that triggered a depression. I could continue to speculate, but I would suggest he have a thorough assessment so both you and he can understand why he has apparently changed, and has left you having to take care of you both.

If your husband declines to be seen by a mental health professional, I would suggest you consider having a frank discussion with him. You can let him know you are struggling, and that it would be helpful to you if he would get a mental health evaluation. He should understand it is not a sign of personal weakness to develop depression. This is an illness, like any other illness. It is caused by changes in the brain, and effective treatment is available. There is no reason to suffer with untreated depression anymore than untreated heart disease or diabetes. Furthermore, just like untreated heart disease and diabetes, untreated depression can lead to a number of medical problems.