Well Spouse Association has unique caregiver focus

  • Throughout my years of writing about caregiving, I’ve often recommended the Well Spouse Association as a resource for spousal caregivers.


    As a family caregiver who spent two decades in varying caregiving roles for a total of seven elders, I’ve endured a lot of emotional upset. While none of my own caregiving was spousal in focus, I did observe my mother, and my mother-in-law, in their spousal caregiver roles. I was the helper, but the wives started out as primary caregivers until their own health failed. It was obvious to me at the time, and even more so in hindsight, that while there is much crossover in caregiving relationships, there are also differences.

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    Answering a call to serve

    Recently, I was asked to become an honorary board member for the Well Spouse Association. My first emotional response was to ask myself if I am qualified for this honor. However, I decided that, because of the advice, feedback and interaction I’ve had through the years with well spouses, I could perhaps work to expand the bridges between caregiving groups

    Therefore, I accepted the position with pleasure. While the sheer numbers of adult children caregivers will always outweigh those of spousal caregivers, most of us who share stories, support, resources and comfort try to include all types of caregivers in the mix. My hope is to use the information I’ve gained from listening and reading notes from spouses caring for their mates to help all caregivers understand each other.


    Similar but different


    Certainly there is much information that is valuable to adult children caregivers, as well as spousal caregivers, and even caregivers of adult children. Resources for respite care are needed by all. Many techniques, such as validation and re-direction with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease are helpful to spouses as well as adult children. Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, the American Diabetes Association and the Arthritis Foundation are capable of helping any caregiver coping with disease related issues.


    However, emotional support is often most valuable when offered by people who have traveled the same journey as we have. Therefore, while adult child caregivers can generally relate in some way to my experiences, spousal caregivers may only partially relate. Spousal caregivers need to hear from, and communicate with, others who care for their ill spouses.


    The Well Spouse Association is the only organization that I know of solely dedicated to spouses. There may be others – there probably are others – however, on a large scale, this organization shines the brightest.


    Interaction needs to be filtered

    As with any organization offering support through caregivers living the life, readers will agree with some of the blog posts and comments, and disagree with others. Full articles are generally written by credentialed writers, but even then readers may not always agree with the writer’s viewpoint.


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    We learn, however, through following other’s stories and filtering and adjusting information to suit our individual, ever changing, world. Whether readers are asking questions on ouralzheimers.com, commenting on an article posted there, or giving support to another caregiver, information needs to be digested and filtered to fit one’s own experience. The same holds true on the well spouse site.


    Bridging the gap with an open mind

    Keeping an open mind is important. Try not to immediately write off an adult child’s comment as useless to you, if you are a spousal caregiver. Try not to immediately write off a spousal caregiver’s advice if you are an adult child. Accept the information that works for you, tweak the information to fit your needs if there is something in it that is of value to you, or ignore it. The choice is yours.


    However, considering what is said by other caregivers, and weighing whether this support offered could be of some help to you, can be helpful. That is what I’ve done for years, and I credit having an open mind to my being able to relate to spousal caregivers on some level. I hope to be of some help in bridging the gap between caregivers in different situations. We can all have compassion for one another, even if we don’t all fit the same mold.


    Keep sharing your advice, comfort, grief and support, my friends. You never know when your experience shared online will be a very important lifeline to another caregiver.


    For more information about Carol visit www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.   

Published On: May 26, 2011