Motivating a Disabled Spouse
“My 65-year-old wife became disabled due to a car accident a few years ago. She now walks with a cane, though she is otherwise physically healthy. This very active lady has now become constantly irritable with family members and disinterested in activities outside of our home. She used to be an adventurous soul, and her lust for life is what attracted me to her. What can I do to motivate her to be more like the person she was before the accident? I just want her to be happy.”
Motivation generally comes from within, and your wife may be resisting any attempt by you to “motivate” her.
When an individual suffers an accident that becomes a permanent disability, he or she is going to experience a period of grieving. That process may likely take some time. Sure, there are incredibly resilient individuals who will bounce back quickly from an injury and become an even stronger version of themselves. These people are undoubtedly amazing, but they are the minority. Most individuals suffering a permanent disability are going to struggle for a while.
Your wife is being forced to make many physical and psychological adjustments every day. She may now have chronic pain that shortens her patience and makes her irritable. The accident may also have impacted what she can do with friends, and she is now unable to participate in some events and activities. In addition to physical changes, there are psychological changes she must make in order to embrace her new body image. She may feel like she is no longer the average, able-bodied adult who can melt into a crowd. She may forever stand out as disabled. If body image or physical limitations are her primary frustrations, encouragement is great, but professional counseling will likely best help her to re-craft her self-image.
She is likely going to react to this accident in a way similar to how she has handled severe disappointments in the past. Remember, this is more extreme than the flu or a fracture that heals and leaves no permanent reminder. She is now being forced to craft a new identity. She is carrying around the “What if…” of the accident with her every day, and she is grieving.
She needs your continued support at this time. If she is in pain, she may not even be aware that she is pushing others away. Gently, you may need to talk to her about how she is treating others.
This life change is not only hers but also yours. It sounds like you have been there for her, which is encouraging, so hang in there. Open dialog is essential, and outside support may be most helpful to help your wife reset.
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