Spouse Spectrum

Caregiver Support and The Spouse Spectrum

By Dr. N. Karen Thames

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Founder and Executive Director of The EPIC Foundation

I want to address the myth that chronic illness only affects the person who is sick and that their partner or loved one shouldn’t have to worry about it. I call this a myth but I am saying something that I realize may be controversial. However, chronic illness not only affects the person who is chronically ill; it affects everyone in the family unit. This can be a partner/spouse, children, loved one, or caretaker. I won’t say that the illness impacts others in the same way as it does the person who is sick. However, the person who lives with the chronically ill person has to go through his/her own emotional process.

I have talked about the “5 stages of Loss” as it applies to the sick person. Did you know that the loved one ALSO goes through the 5 stages of loss? This includes denial, depression/isolation, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. There are various aspects of their lives which bring up these emotions which include but are not limited to:

  • Changing roles in the home
  • Shift in responsibilities
  • Loss of income if one person has to stop working
  • Financial strain because of mounting medical bills and other expenses
  • Decrease in intimacy
  • Overall feeling of disconnect in the relationship
  • Change in parenting roles in the home with children
  • Children’s upset and/or confusion about the illness and impact of the illness
  • Mood symptoms and the impact on the relationships in the home

It has been said that the divorce rate amongst Cushing’s patients is well over 50 % some even say it is as high as 80 %.

This video on “The Spouse Spectrum”, a term coined by our Cushing’s survivor and advocate Melissa Moxie, may be helpful in understanding some relationship dynamics when there is chronic illness: https://youtu.be/UYN6tkZlbIY

For Caregiver support, you can contact the Chair of our Caregiver Support Committee, Craig Thames. He can be reached at craig@epictogether.org or 888-862-5554 Ext. 703.