Splitting Support Groups to Keep Marriages Together

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At Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital, the support groups for survivors of strokes and brain injuries work a little differently. Four years ago, a meeting for just caregivers broke off. And now, medical staff at the hospital are trying to pay closer attention to the needs of caregivers earlier on.

Roxane Bingham (Travis Lux)

Roxane Bingham is one of the facilitators of the support group. In a hospital conference room, she welcomes survivors and their caregivers into a lunch line. As they walk in, she tells the survivors to take a seat at one of the fold-out tables, and directs their caregivers toward the adjoining room. Four years ago, going through the same lunch line, a husband of a stroke survivor stopped  Bingham and her he was on the brink of walking away from his marriage. 

And then literally 10 minutes later, another survivor’s husband came up to her in the lunch line. And told her the exact same thing.

"We’re not marriage counselors, but what do you do with that?," Bingham asked herself. 

What they did was split up the groups. Caregivers in one room, survivors in the other. Bingham wanted to give the caregivers a private space to talk about how the strokes and brain injuries had affected their lives. 

"Our meeting’s usually an hour and a half. That meeting lasted almost three hours," she said. 

Turns out that down the hall, the survivors had a lot to say, too. Bingham says that when everyone was in the same room, survivors didn’t speak much. Probably because caregivers were speaking for them. But, she says, with the caregivers gone…

"I couldn’t get them to stop talking. Even some non-verbal people became verbal."

Kim and Paul Fountaine (Travis Lux)

Paul Fountaine, along with his wife and caregiver Kim, were at that first meeting. Paul had just been in an accident. Kim was spending a lot of time driving him to doctor’s appointments. 

"I probably never did say thanks," Paul said, turning to his wife. "You know what I meant, but I just probably never did say it. You know, I appreciate it."

It was the most recent support group meeting that reminded Paul to say thank you.