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May 19, 1993

Spouses of the Chronically III Help Each Other Cope

JAMA. 1993;269(19):2486. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500190028006

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WHEN A MARRIED person becomes chronically ill, the healthy spouse often becomes the primary if not the sole care giver. And while many systems are in place to address the needs of the disabled, healthy spouses often receive little support for what they are going through.

Many encounter emotional and financial loss, a doubled work load, daily anxiety and stress, loss of pleasure and leisure, and virtually inescapable responsibility—sometimes for as long as 10, 20, or 30 years. For many, the rigors of caring for their spouse have long precluded any social or professional life they previously enjoyed. Feelings of isolation, anger, guilt, sorrow, and fear may seem overwhelming.

"When one is sick... two need help" is the motto of the Well Spouse Foundation, a national network of spouses of the chronically ill who have banded together to offer each other emotional support. The nonprofit organization also advocates programs that