Caregiver Spouses and the Well Spouse Association
One morning, Kathleen just needed someone to talk to about being a caregiver for her husband, who has serious health conditions due to diabetes. She needed a friend to reassure that help was available, that someone knew her situation was difficult, and that someone cared. Help was just a phone call away fortunately. But not all caregivers have a support network which is so helpful in those times when they just need to vent or need to hear an understanding voice.
Many caregiver spouses find that they became caregivers when their husband or wife became ill or incapacitated. Often that position of caregiver was temporary until the spouse came out of the rehabilitation hospital and became able to care for himself again. However, some spouses became long-term caregivers because they were the closest relative who could and would take care of that ill or elderly spouse on an on-going basis at home or in a facility. These spouses keep that caregiving commitment alive through their love and perseverance.
For all you caregiver spouses, I am glad to introduce to you an organization that is just for spouses who are caregivers. The organization is the Well Spouse Association, an association of “husbands, wives, or partners — current or former — of persons with chronic illness and/or disability.” The Association was begun in 1988 by caregivers who knew firsthand the needs of those taking care of a spouse with chronic disease or disabilities. The Association now has over 3,000 members. The Association is based in New Jersey and offers respite weekends to members across the country, and support groups in various cities across the U.S. and Canada, as well as phone and online support for spousal caregivers.
The Well Spouse Association allows only spousal caregivers to join as individual members in order to protect their own confidentiality. The Association offers the Mainstay Newsletter which can be mailed or emailed to members six times a year and an e-newsletter every two weeks. Members can join a Well Spouse Association support group in their area where they can share the challenges of being a caregiver and discuss their ideas, emotions and thoughts. They can also participate in a telephone support groups which are helpful to those who find getting out of the house difficult. The Association offers a mentorship program and materials for starting a support group. Online the Members-Only area of the website offers Member stories and book chapters by a spousal caregiver, blogs by members, and a chat line for members.
Memberships cost $30 a year for an individual. If you are a spousal caregiver of a military service member or a veteran yourself, then you qualify for the first year of membership free. Arizona residents can receive a free membership through a grant as long as grant money is available. Those who are having financial difficulties can contact the office for accommodations; just call the Well Spouse Association at 1-800-838-0879, or email Information. A Non-Supporting Membership is available at no charge for one year, after which you will be asked to become a Supporting Member. In addition to what is already available to the public, this Membership allows access to the WSA Online Forum.
Fortunately, Kathleen could pick up the phone that morning and call the phone support line of the Well Spouse Association and find emotional support and advice from an experienced caregiver.
If you are one of the caregiver spouses, then we invite you to look into joining the Well Spouse Association. See their website at www.wellspouse.org or call 1-800-838-0879.