Spousal Caregiver Support Groups

Being a full time caregiver for one’s ill or disabled partner or spouse is in many ways different from other caregiver situations. As a spouse, one is faced with a very changed relationship, one that had a particular future and now is focused primarily on medical and emotional support. There are many changes that occur in one’s life as a spousal caregiver, even sometimes including changing one’s house to accommodate the new needs for one’s partner’s medical needs.

All this can be demanding and bring with it a sense of loneliness and fatigue. To be able to hear from others who are in the same situation can be tremendously healing, illuminating and helpful. Too often the focus is on the ill partner and not enough on the caregiving partner. Burn-out is very common, along with other frustrations arising from a very changed relationship and unfamiliar complexities of all sorts including an uncertain, future with far less personal control. However most relationships can actually be navigated to develop a future that supports both partners.

Other group members can really see and understand what this experience is like.

Our group is kept to about 6 people so that everyone has plenty of time to speak. The facilitators are both experienced therapists and eldercare professionals with a combined total of 50 years of professional experience. We emphasize that our group is not a therapy group in which case members could delve into emotions within the relationships in the group but rather more of a support group where common experience is shared and personal emotions are sensitively held and respected.

Facilitators

George Ramsey and Ellen Knapp have been facilitating these groups together since 2014.

george-ramseyGeorge Ramsey: George Ramsey, MA LPC received his master’s degree in psychology from Naropa University in 1985. He has worked in mental health specializing on psychological issues of elders for 30 years. He retired from Mental Health Partners having served on their Older Adult Team for 27 years. While at MHP, in addition to being a therapist he was also a supervisor for psychology and social work interns. He has been adjunct faculty in Naropa’s psychology programs for many years. George has been co-facilitating the Spousal Caregivers’ Support Group for nearly two years.

Ellen_Portrait_hp

Ellen Knapp: Ellen has national certifications as a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Currently Ellen has an independent eldercare management business, serving individuals as a counselor, caregivers as a consultant, families with in-home care needs for their loved ones, and as a referral source for additional local and national professional help. Ellen earned her MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa University.

Testimonials


The spousal support group made me feel comfortable right from the first meeting. I immediately felt like I ‘fit in’.  Everyone was so supportive and had helpful insights. The  compassion from the others made me feel valued as a care-giver.

One of the main benefits  of the group is to feel that one is not alone in the care-giving struggle: Others are fighting the good fight too. We support each other. We are learning the territory together as we cross it.

— T.R.N, Boulder


For nearly three years I attended spousal support groups with Ellen Knapp and George Ramsey. The group sessions were energetic and incredibly helpful, as we shared our experiences of caring for partners with dementia or other end-of-life illnesses. Ellen’s and George’s skillful facilitation of the group sessions made them so valuable. Their attentive and careful listening and discernment helped all of us to address the challenges of changing relationships, as well as the need for sustained self-care.

— Deborah J. Haynes