November is National Family Caregivers Month. Did you know that three out of four people will either be a caregiver, or need a caregiver, during their lifetimes? There are about 4 million spousal caregivers in America today, supplying upwards of $45 billion in uncompensated care. What young couple ever imagines that their pledges of "in sickness and in health" might entail decades of hands-on care for their spouse?
The Well Spouse Association® (501c3) www.wellspouse.org is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization which provides peer support to those caring for a chronically ill or disabled spouse or partner. Our focus is on the needs of the Well Spouses themselves. We preach “put on your own oxygen mask first” as it is impossible to care for others if you don’t care for yourself. Our mission is to bring these caregivers together to share emotional support and best practices. We offer online forums, face-to-face and telephone support groups, mentors, webinars, a newsletter, respite weekends, and an annual national conference.
Well Spouses face unique challenges: we lose our best friends, lovers, life partners, and our dreams for the future to progressive illnesses which can drastically change the marital dynamic. We often have to shoulder all household and parenting duties, while also working fulltime and trying to care for the ill spouse. Many find that frequent medical crises make it impossible to be employed outside the home, causing financial stress. Sometimes the ill spouse’s sky-high medical expenses cause us to forego our own care.
Our motto is “When one is sick, two need help.” Family and friends may help out in myriad practical ways, but most of our members say that only another spousal caregiver can truly understand what it’s like to be faced with the 24/7 demands of a spouse’s chronic progressive illness. Our members’ commonality is our status as spousal caregivers; the illnesses vary widely. All of us face rolling grief as our spouses’ health inevitably declines and we continuously struggle to adapt to the latest losses and challenges.
Thank you for considering these overlooked caregivers. Your generous tax-deductible donation will help us to reach and assist more spousal caregivers who are on this difficult journey, often feeling alone and afraid.
- Carolyn Lemcool
- Peter Fieweger
- Peggy Hubbard
- Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay