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Hi, I'm new to the forum. I wanted to see if there are any others out there who have caregiving responsibilities for a morbidly obese spouse. I seldom see this topic anywhere. To tell you something of my life...

My husband lost his job as a computer operator in January 2000, after Y2K had passed. Deep depression set in and he began to do nothing but lie in bed and eat. His weight ballooned and soon his health began to fail. By the next year, he was bedridden with congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, cellulitis and diabetes. Because he couldn't do much physically, he continued to eat and eat and his weight went up and up.

Ultimately, he topped out at 525 lbs, when all of his doctors told him emphatically that he was going to die if he didn't lose weight. He chose to have gastric surgery in July 2002. He initially lost 160 lbs, but then his weight plateaued and never got lower than about 340 or so. Since then his weight has creapt back up again to over 400. He is on disability, still spends most of his days lying in bed, watching TV. He sells things on Ebay to supplement his Social Security a bit, but it doesn't help much financially.

I was forced to quit my full-time job as a legal secretary in July 2001 in order to care for him. For the next five years, I could only work temporary jobs because of his needs, although I was finally able to go back to work full-time two years ago, in 2005. I am the main support for our family.

I have suffered from severe depression myself (to the point of being suicidal) and have just been through a year in therapy. I'm on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. I still love my husband, but there is no passion left. We haven't had a sex life in at least eight years. I just feel dead inside and am chronically exhausted. Besides working full time and caring for him, I also have a very elderly mother who is in frail health and a college age daughter to see after (but that's another story).

I try not to feel sorry for myself or let it all crush me, but sometimes it's rather overwhelming. Anyone else out there in the same boat?

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Dear TexCee:

It is hard when our spouses are not there for us due to health problems. It is even more difficult when you are as sandwiched as you are. I hope you are taking care of yourself also - but something tells me that you will laugh at that comment... The weakness of caregivers is that everyone else comes first!

There is help out there. One volunteer group is Faith in Action. They are located in almost every state. Check and see if there is a Faith in Action volunteer group in your area. Perhaps you could arrange for them to help with your mother and husband. Their website is:

You need help and support I think. Do call Faith in Action and get the forms to fill out for their help. Then try to seek out a support group for caregivers to help you cope... Meanwhile, know that we are here for you TexCee...

Hugs, Glenda

[This message has been edited by glenderella (edited 10-27-2007).]
Thanks for the hugs and the link. I do have help with Mom, thankfully. My husband is fairly self-sufficient but so dependent on me for other things. He can't even bathe himself. He desperately needs to be in counseling but adamantly refuses to go because he maintains he doesn't have any problems. As MY therapist responded to me in one of our many sessions where hubby was the topic: "A 400 lb. man, who lies in bed all the time and deals with stress by pulling the blanket over his head and turning his face to the wall, has no problems???" Just call him Ramses, King of "De Nial".

People have asked me why I don't just leave him. It's because I love him deeply. We have been together for 34 years and he is my true soul mate. We still laugh and talk and enjoy each other's company, but there are undoubtedly deep, severe fissures in our relationship. We stopped being husband and wife when he started getting sick over eight years ago, and have become patient and nurse instead. But we're still best friends and he is so very, very dependent on me emotionally as well as physically that I honestly believe he would kill himself if I left.

So, the reasons I stay are extremely complicated, but I stay because I love him, despite his faults and needs and habits that drive me nuts.
Dear TexCee,
I too have a partner that I love with all my heart. He is not morbidly obese however he has terminal CHF. I have been taking care of him for the past 1-2 years in one way or another. As his disease has progressed he has been going through many of the emotions that your husband is going through. He too can no longer work that was a grave blow to him and became extremly depressed this combined with his feelings of guilt over this were so overpowering at times that I sometimes thought he was contemplating suicide. I can certainly feel your pain at watching a vibrant life fade and how helpless you feel that anything you do just doesn't seem to help him. Dealing with his depression just saps the life out of you. We dont sleep together and the sex life is barely existant. When I come downstairs in the morning I wonder what new adventure awaits me today! Its always something new. You are not alone in the way you feel and what you are going through. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and told yourself "you're beautiful and you deserve". I think we get so entangled in our "others" disease that we forget that we have needs too. Eight years is along time to give someone that much of yourself without at least giving yourself something in return. When was the last time you held a mirror up to your husband. Maybe he needs to really see what he has done to himself and maybe you should stand up, look him in his eyes and tell him how much you love him and how his actions are affecting not only him but you also. Many times people forget that their decissions can have grave consequences for the people that love them. As with my partner his addiction to alcohol was more important than his health. When all the doctors told him to not drink im sure that his intentions were good but not enough to get him through the tough times, which were many. As a result of a lifetime of alchohol abuse and smoking he now has terminal CHF and the tough times just wont go away. I, like you, have made a committment to him and have promised to be there until the end because he knows for a fact that I love him. He has been sober for over a year and i'm sure that has done wonders for his heart. I just keep ploding along, working a full time job, taking care of him, supporting his hobbies, and trying to be uplifting to him in his times of need. You can only do so much for your husband and cant beat yourself up because your not a miracle worker. Do something special for yourself and look in the mirror and tell yourself "you're beautiful and you deserve"

Hugs to you
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with your husband, Julianna. CHF is something that most people don't think about as being so debilitating, because it's not like a classic heart attack. My husband was first diagnosed with it at age 26 when he nearly died from it. He also had a major stroke when he was in the hospital at that time. He's 53 now and for a long time I thought, "He won't see 45." Then "He won't see 50", so I count every day a blessing.

Because his heart is so bad, he has to spend about 3/4 of his day in bed. Of course, that aggravates his weight problem, so it's a vicious circle. He is able to walk for short distances and can go to the post office or grocery store, but he's usually wiped out when he gets home. If he spends too much time (more than an hour or so), then he may spend two or three days in bed recovering. His muscle strength is negligible and his left side is weaker than the right due to the stroke he had back in 1983 (I think it was that year).

It's sad because he was a strong, energetic man when we met in college. He worked in a warehouse doing manual labor, then came home and worked out with weights. After college, he got a job as a computer operator at a major electronics company and stayed with them until his forced retirement in 2000. Right up until the late 1990's, just before his illness really began, he worked in the yard, loved to travel with me and our daughter, did a lot of walking, etc.

He's a completely different person today. His illness changed him mentally as well as physically. I really think losing his job was the thing that got to him. Essentially, he lost his manhood. He was no longer able to work and support his family but had to depend on what I bring in and what he gets from Social Security. He lost his physique and energy. He lost his sexual desire and even the ability to have sex, which contributed to the end of our marital relations. His depression is so deep and profound that he essentially just gave up.

I've tried to get him into therapy. Our daughter has tried to get him into therapy. Our doctor has tried. He simply won't even consider it. I think he's too afraid to find out what he'd see staring back at him if he DID look into that mirror. It's easier to pretend that he has no problems and everything is just fine.

Meanwhile, after pretty much collapsing myself about a year and a half ago, and going through counseling myself in order to save my own sanity, I DID reach the point where I realized that I had to start taking care of myself and get back to a life outside of the closed world of caregiving for him and my mother. I've learned to detach (at least much better than I used to) and am planning on getting back to traveling and have some much desired trips coming up in the next couple of years (the good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, as they say).

Best wishes to you, Julianna. Hugs to you!!

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