The Well Spouse Association is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1988 by author and spousal caregiver, Zane Kotker (writing under the pseudonym Maggie Strong), whose husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. With much encouragement, she wrote a book, Mainstay: For the Well Spouse of the Chronically Ill, sharing her experiences as a well spouse. Maggie understood that to simply write a book was not enough - where would those well spouses turn after they read her book? In the last pages of Mainstay she asked other well spouses to send a postcard if they too wanted to create an organization just for spousal caregivers.
Maggie began a book tour and appeared on national TV programs, bringing attention to the plight of the spousal caregiver. While on tour, she met several well spouses who were interested in organizing local chapters of "National Well Spouses". In October 1988, ten of those local chapter organizers and more "well spouses" met face-to-face in Pendle Hill, PA for the very first Well Spouse conference. The diseases that affect these founders’ spouses were multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart and vessel troubles, degeneration of the brain, and cancer. Eight were parents and the founders ranged in age from 30 to 57 - an average of 45 years old. Overwhelmed with the support and sense of relief they felt when meeting others who understood, they decided to form a grassroots not-for-profit organization. They knew it would not be easy, but they committed to reach out to as many other well spouses as they could.
Well Spouse was incorporated as the Well Spouse Foundation in 1989. In 2005, the Board of Directors voted to officially change the name to the Well Spouse® Association to more accurately reflect who we are and what we do. Today, the Well Spouse mission remains to provide peer-to-peer support to the wives, husbands, and partners of the chronically ill and/or disabled. We offer this support through our programs, events, and resources. Our members can share their thoughts and feelings openly with others facing similar circumstances in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. In addition, they share information on a wide range of practical issues facing spousal caregivers. WSA works to make health care professionals and the general public aware of the great difficulties caregivers face every day.
The Well Spouse Association is funded by membership fees, donations, foundation and corporate grants, bequests, endowments and commemorative gifts.
We thank Maggie Strong for her powerful words more than 30 years ago – with her work, we well spouses know that we are no longer alone.