Submissions from Readers

Physically a vegetable

by Geri
(Erie Pennsylvania)

Question: My husband who is 61 years old has many, many health problems. Heart disease, kidney, liver disease, server brain atrophy, vascular issues, diabetic, cancer (MDS), strokes amputated left leg above knee and doesn't carry on a conversation anymore. One word answers, etc. and is living in a nursing home.

The other day I was visiting and I asked him what he was doing and he said he was trying to put this watch together. I then asked whim whose watch it was and he said mine and I asked where he got it from and he said I gave it to him. Weird, I am wondering if in his mind it's keeping him doing things making him feel like he's still living a life. He can't move at all including his hands or arms. He can't even sit up on his own. He's physically a vegetable. Just wondering if you have any insight on why his mind would think like this?

Answer: Hi Geri. With all of the vascular changes and brain atrophy, your husband may not be aware that he is unable to move. You didn't mention whether he had insight into his physical deficits or not, but I have worked with individuals who just don't realize that they can't move their body or think they are moving when they are not. It's usually related to the area of the brain that is damaged. On the other hand, it would not be unreasonable for someone to come up with a coping mechanism for being physically unable to move by imagining that they were able to move. Or there may be some other reason he thinks like this. Since the brain is complex, it's hard to give a definitive answer.

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