As a newspaper columnist and forum moderator dedicated to caregiver support and aging issues, I often hear complaints from well spouses caring for their mate. These folks want to know why most of the online support, and many of the in-person support groups, are dominated by the adult children caregivers.
These complaints are well-founded. The Well Spouse Association is the only website that I’m aware of solely dedicated to spouses of those with health issues. There may be other sites, and I’d be happy to hear from them, but they are few and far between. As a writer, I’ve often intentionally included spousal caregivers in my articles, and many of my articles apply to all types of caregivers. However, I’ve certainly dedicated less space to well spouses than adult children. One article on Eldercarelink.com, titled Spousal Caregivers Need Support: How Different Are Their Needs From Adult Children Who Are Caregivers?, was specifically written to close this gap to some degree.
Spousal caregivers often write notes to me with feedback and tips, as do people caring for adult disabled children. After all, caregiving is emotionally and physically challenging no matter who your care receiver is. However, each group of caregivers deserves attention, as well.
Spousal caregivers have some unique support needs
An excellent article by Alix Kates Shulman for the New York Times titled “Caring for an Ill Spouse, and for Other Caregivers,” addresses the issue of support groups specifically for spouses. Shulman’s article focuses on the immense benefit of in-person support through meeting once a week or so to share stories and experiences. The value of these face-to-face meetings is expressed wonderfully by a spousal caregiver who said, “We speak of feelings and problems too sensitive or fraught to discuss outside. We recount the disappearance of old friends, whose discomfort around our spouses keeps them away. We mourn the loss of companionship and sex.”
Support for spouses is available online and in person
Shulman also mentions online support. During my most intense caregiving years, going to a in-person group meeting would have been just one more thing to do. I didn’t have enough time as it was. I was a sandwich generation caregiver before there was a term for people caring for young children while they simultaneously cared for elders. Time for a meeting? Not really. I would have benefited from much of the online support available today.
Shulman’s article suggests that if you are looking for a spousal caregiver support group you can “contact theAlzheimer’s Association, your local hospital or the Well Spouse Association, a nationwide group for people caring for spouses or partners.”
I echo her advice. Also, keep reading everything you can. You’ll recognize your own issues by reading the stories of other caregivers either online or in books. Mutual sharing between caregivers is one of the great tools caregivers use to stay afloat. When we know we’re not alone with our thoughts and our problems we lighten the load by half. Talk about it. Read about it. Write about it. You’ll soon find out you are breaking your own isolation by helping yourself as you help others.Posted in Caregiving, Support | 6 Comments »
Tags: eldercare, spousal support