Celebrity Spotlight – Celebrating Sandwich Generation Caregivers

 

More than 24 million Americans are caught in the middle called the “Sandwich Generation” who are caring for two generations simultaneously: children and older parents.

July marks National Sandwich Generation Month where our CEO Sherri Snelling has interviewed famous Sandwich Generation caregivers  who share their caregiving journeys and their tips on how to balance family, career and caregiving without losing focus on caring for yourself.

Read Sherri’s interviews with these Sandwich Generation caregivers:

Holly Robinson Peete’s Most Challenging Role – Sandwich Generation Caregiver

Kimberly Williams-Paisley – Finding Her Mother Again

Brooke Shields – Endless Love in Caring for Her Mom

Joan Lunden – Coast to Coast Caregiving

 

 

 

 

Presenting the 5th Annual CARE-Y Awards

And the Awards Goes to . . . Fifth Annual CARE-Y Awards – Caregivers on TV

5th Annual CARE Y AWARDSFor the last five years I have bestowed my own version of the Emmy® Awards – something I call the CARE-Y Awards℠ that acknowledges both the reel stars and episodes in the past year’s TV programming and the real life caregivers who appear on TV.

With Emmy season just around the corner (the annual Emmy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, September 22 on CBS), here are my picks for shows and TV champions which put the spotlight on caregiving in America:

 

“Reel Life” CARE-Y Awards – Playing a Caregiver on TV

 

Best Caregiving Sons – Pete Campbell – Mad Men and Jack Donaghy – 30 Rock

Reflecting the increase in men as primary caregivers (42 percent according to the latest Pew Research report),  we award a a tie to Mad Men’s Pete Campbell (played by Vincent Kartheiser) and 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy (play by Alec Baldwin). Both men have tense, testy relationships with their disapproving mothers yet step in to care for mom when needed.

Mad Men's Pete and Dorothy Campbell and male nurse Manolo

Mad Men’s Pete and Dorothy Campbell and male nurse Manolo

In Mad Men, a recently separated Pete takes on the primary caregiving role for his bitingly critical mother Dorothy (played by Channing Chase). She has progressive signs of Alzheimer’s and Pete secures a male nurse, Manolo, for her 24/7 care.

One poignant moment during this AMC period drama set in the late 60s is when Bobby Kennedy is shot. Dorothy wakes Pete to tell him but he responds that President Kennedy was shot years ago and she is confused. The reality is that although dementia sufferers may live in the past, they still have moments of clarity and this was one of them.

In the season finale we learn that Pete’s mother may be a victim of fraud and foul play as Pete is told his mother fell overboard while on a cruise with her male nurse turned Latin lover.  This episode is all about loss: Dorothy losing her memory, Pete losing his mother’s love to a male gigolo and finally realizing she may be gone forever as he learns his mother is lost at sea.

Watch a clip of Pete and Dorothy here

30 Rock's Jack Donaghy and mom Colleen take a last ride

30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy and mom Colleen take a last ride

In the dark, wry comedy known as 30 Rock Elaine Stritch (cabaret and comedy veteran whose gravel-voice and deadpan humor is pitch perfect here) has played Jack’s fearsome, harpy mother, Colleen Donaghy, for seven seasons, earning an Emmy in 2004 for her guest appearances.  Jack describes his mother as “87 years old which is 14 in demon years.”

In this last season of the show, Colleen uncharacteristically tells Jack she only wants him to be happy and then promptly has a heart attack in the New York City hansom cab on their way to yet another hospital visit. Jack finally realizes beneath the fights and frustration and trips to the hospital was true love – dark, twisted love – from the only woman who could foil his oversized ego and make him a caring human.

Watch Jack and Colleen’s last ride here

Best Episode Featuring a Caregiver’s Challenge – Frank Reagan – Blue Bloods

The Reagans of Blue Bloods: Henry, Frank, Erin

The Reagans of Blue Bloods: Henry, Frank, Erin

In the CBS drama, Blue Bloods, Tom Selleck plays Frank Reagan, the patriarch of an Irish-American family of law enforcement officers in New York City. In this season’s episode, Greener Grass, Frank struggles with his live-in father, Henry’s (played by Len Cariou) diminished driving skills – one of the toughest conversations caregivers face with an older parent. After several unexplained driving accidents and fender benders, Frank’s attempt to talk to his dad about no longer driving goes horribly wrong leaving Frank frustrated and his father angry and fearful.  Ultimately, Erin (played by Bridget Moynahan) talks to both her father and her grandfather and a surprising solution is found.

Watch the driving conversation between Erin, Henry and Frank here

 

Best Special Needs Caregiver – Kristina Braverman – Parenthood

Parenthood's Kristina and son Max

Parenthood’s Kristina and son Max

NBC’s Parenthood has featured a storyline since its first season about a young son, Max (played by Max Burkholder) with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. His caregiving mom, Kristina, played by Monica Potter (who also was featured in the PBS caregiving documentary It’s Your Turn), plays a cancer survivor and in real life was caregiver to her father.

In this season’s episode, I’ll Be Right Here, Max with the encouragement of his mom who cannot be there because of a cancer treatment so her sister is her back-up, stands on stage before his entire junior high school and bravely talks about his condition for the first time.

Watch Max’s brave speech in front of his fellow students

 

Best Caring for a Veteran – Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs – NCIS

Special Agent Gibbs and marine with PTSD on NCIS

Special Agent Gibbs and marine with PTSD on NCIS

Sometimes caregiving is provided by a sibling or a friend. In one of the highest rated episodes of the top-rated CBS crime drama, NCIS deals with an Iraqi war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The steely agent with the sensitive side is Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by star and producer Mark Harmon), who  in a two-episode story this season called Shell Shock, helps Marine Capt. Joe Westcott (played by Brad Beyer) retrace his steps to a horrible Middle East incident which helps solve a murder stateside.  During the episode it is former Marine Gibbs who understands Westcott’s pain and also helps Westcott’s father and brother understand the challenges of dealing with the invisible wounds of war.

Watch Mark Harmon and Pauly Perrette in an NCIS PSA on PTSD

 

Best Caregivers of Those with Mental Illness Lifetime’s Call Me Crazy – A Five Film

Lifetime's cast of Call Me Crazy - A Five Film

Lifetime’s cast of Call Me Crazy – A Five Film

Last year Lifetime presented the groundbreaking A Five Film production featuring well-known directors and actors in stories of breast cancer. This year they put the spotlight on the mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health reports one in four U.S. adults have a diagnosable mental disorder yet the stigma of mental illness forces patients and their family caregivers into the shadows.

This two-hour program of five inter-locking stories, Call Me CrazyA Five Film starred Jennifer Hudson, Lea Thompson (real life caregiver to her mom with Alzheimer’s), Octavia Spencer and Melanie Griffith in short stories directed by Ashley Judd, Bryce Dallas Howard and Bonnie Hunt. The emotionally moving stories show us the real drama behind being a caregiver of a loved one battling bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and PTSD.

Watch the promo for Call Me Crazy

 

Best End-of-Life Caregiving ConversationMeredith Grey – Grey’s Anatomy

Meredith and McDreamy talk end of life on Grey's Anatomy

Meredith and McDreamy talk end of life on Grey’s Anatomy

For nine years Grey’s Anatomy has featured two ongoing storylines about Alzheimer’s disease which affects 5.4 million Americans.  Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) lost her mom to the disease and was tested to find out if she carries the “Alzheimer’s genetic marker” in this season’s The More You Genome episode.

In its quirky drama-comedy style of writing, the 30-something Grey talks to her husband Derek Shepherd (played by “McDreamy” Patrick Dempsey real-life caregiver to his mom who battled ovarian cancer) and her best friend Cristina Yang (played by Sandra Oh) about her end-of-life wishes once she starts to experience memory loss.

Watch McDreamy and Meredith talk “end of life wishes” here

 

 

Best Caregiving “Reality” Show – Ruth and Erica – WIGS Channel on YouTube

YouTube's Ruth and Erica

YouTube’s Ruth and Erica

Not all the best programming is on traditional TV networks or even cable as this year’s Emmy nods to Netflix original series such as House of Cards demonstrates.  We follow suit by giving an award to Ruth and Erica, a 13-episode series on the WIGS drama channel on YouTube starring TV stars Maura Tierney (The Good Wife, ER) as daughter  Erica and Lois Smith (True Blood) as mom Ruth.

A cast of TV veterans, including Steven Weber, Michael C. Hall and Jane Kaczmarek are featured throughout the series as Erica struggles to be a caregiver for her parents – feisty, independent Ruth and her Alzheimer’s stricken father Harry, played by Philip Baker Hall (Modern Family). Neither will admit their frailty and increasing needs as they age. It is stark reality wrapped up in brilliant dramatic acting that is our choice for award-winning online viewing.

Watch Ruth and Erika here

 

Our Caregiving Champions Hall of Fame – the Showrunners

This year, I wanted to give special recognition to the creators and showrunners of some of our best TV programming who have integrated a caregiving storyline into their shows.  These champions have not just done lip service or a “fly by” on the challenges of caregivers – they have made it a central part of their show’s story.  Here is my shout-out to those who are delivering TV to help not only entertain us but to educate us.

Shonda Rhimes – Grey’s Anatomy

Shonda Rhimes

She is the queen of the night at ABC when it comes to creating “must watch” TV these days with her debut of Grey’s Anatomy nine seasons ago followed by Private Practice and the watercooler/Twitter following phenomenon of her “gladiators” on Scandal.  It is her dedication to the Alzheimer’s storyline on the long-running Grey’s Anatomy which places her in my hall of fame.  Starting with the struggle of Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) and her mom, Ellis (played by real-life Alzheimer’s Association champion Kate Burton who also appears on Scandal) to Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.) who cared for a wife, Adele (played with brilliance by Loretta Devine) with early on-set Alzheimer’s to the latest season where Meredith decides to be tested to see if she carried the Alzheimer’s genetic marker and has to have the “end of life wishes” talk with her husband, Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd (played by Patrick Dempsey), Rhimes and her writing team have never waivered from showing us the daily struggle and challenge for those with dementia and the toll it takes on their family caregivers.

Jason Katims – Parenthood

Jason Katims Parenthood

Jason Katims has been the driver of Parenthood  since its debut in 2010 and from the beginning he focused one of his story lines on the Braverman family coping with their special needs child, Max, who has Asperger’s syndrome.  Katims knows the role of special needs father well.  His son lives with autism making Katims one of the 17 million Americans who care for a special needs child.  We see the challenges in the family dynamic – mother, father, sister, aunt and the bravery of a son trying to be normal and how difficult that daily struggle is making viewers more aware and more compassionate.

 

 

 

Aaron Sorkin – The West Wing

aaron sorkinAlthough the Emmy-winning The West Wing has not been on NBC since 2006, the series can still be viewed on Netflix and has a cult following on Twitter with several of the show’s main characters tweeting about current world and political events (not connected to the original show’s writing team but fan-based). I give a shout out to head writer and executive producer, Aaron Sorkin, who not only created some of the best TV programming ever but gave his main character, President Josiah Bartlett (played flawlessly by Martin Sheen), multiple sclerosis, a degenerative, non-curable autoimmune disease that affects more than 2 million people worldwide.  We watch how someone on the world stage deals with such a weighty secret with the help of his loving caregiver, wife Dr. Abigail Bartlett (played by the brilliant Stockard Channing). Sorkin blends disease, dignity, denial, defiance and duty into an ongoing storyline which shows us the vulnerabilities and strength in dealing with a chronic illness.

Special Recognition Awards

Best PSA Campaign

Royal-Pains castMark Feuerstein (“Hank Lawson”), Ben Shenkman (“Jeremiah Sacani”), and Paulo Costanzo (“Evan Roth Lawson”) of the USA Network drama Royal Pains, which airs in the summer months teamed up for a PSA encouraging all to participate in the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Longest Day” Campaign on June 21 to honor the strength, endurance, and passion of those facing Alzheimer’s every day.

 

 

 

Best Advertising:  Depends starring Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna

Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin SilhouettesKudos to gorgeous real-life TV star couple for starring in a TV commercial about absorbent briefs showing that incontinence issues can hit even when you still look great on the outside.

 

 

 

Kudos to Programs That Show Ability Rather Than Disability, Disease or Disorder:

the-good-wife-michael-j-fox_320The wonderful guest actor Michael J.Fox on CBS’s The Good Wife who plays a cunning lawyer with Parkinson’s disease – which Fox lives with in real life. MJF will star in his own show, The Michael J. Fox Show, on NBC this fall.

 

 

 

auggie_piper_perabo_covert_affairsShowing that blind doesn’t keep you from spy work – Christopher Gorham plays Augie who is a blind CIA analyst often saving Annie (Piper Perabo) on USA Network’s Covert Affairs.

 

 

 

 

Glee08Artie (played by Kevin McHale) is a singer/guitarist on Fox’s Glee who just happens to also be a paraplegic in a wheelchair.

 

 

 

 

PerceptionEric McCormack plays brilliant but paranoid schizophrenic neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Pierce on the new TNT series Perception.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Real Life” CARE-Y Awards – Caregivers on TV

 

Best Caregiver of a Morning Show Host – Sally Ann Roberts, sister to Robin, co-host of Good Morning America

Robin Roberts and Sally AnnRobin Roberts, co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America who beat breast cancer five year ago was hit again – this time with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), a type of pre-leukemia that attacks the blood and bone marrow.  In an emotional message, she told viewers she would be undergoing a life-saving bone marrow transplant and that the donor would be her sister, Sally Ann.  Both Robin and Sally Ann talk about the importance of organ donation and encourage everyone to sign up for a donor registry such as bethematch.org.  The transplant took place on September 20 and I wish Robin and Sally Ann swift, successful recoveries.

 

 

Best Caregivers Who Are Lead Actors in a Drama Series – Peter Gallagher and Bryan Cranston 

Best ActorsThis is a tie between Peter Gallagher, who plays Arthur Campbell, head of the CIA on Covert Affairs on USA Network and Bryan Cranston who plays Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad.  Both Peter and Bryan cared for mothers who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and are Alzheimer’s Association Champions. (See Caregiving Club’s interview with Peter Gallagher from the Alzheimer’s Association A Night at Sardi’s event).

 

Best Caregiver Who Is a Lead Actresses in a Drama SeriesMadeleine Stowe

Madeleine Stowe dreamstime_m_21785006 (2)Madeline Stowe, who plays evil Victoria Grayson on ABC’s Revenge was a young caregiver to her father who suffered from multiple sclerosis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Caregiver Who Is a Talk Show Host – Katie Couric

katie_couricHeading into season two of her highly rated afternoon talk show for ABC, The Katie Show, longtime news anchor, Katie Couric, cared for her husband who died of colon cancer.  Her sister also passed away from pancreatic cancer.  Couric has been a tireless advocate for colon cancer screenings and education and supports the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s (EIF) Stand Up 2 Cancer campaign.

My special thanks to the writers, directors and producers who help shed more light on caregiving in their programming.  And, special thanks to those real-life caregivers who help the 65 million caregivers across the country know they are not alone when these high-profile celebrities talk of their own caregiving experiences.

 

 

If you have a nomination for a reel or real life caregiver, send me your suggestions at info@caregivingclub.com.  

The Show Must Go On for the Osmonds

Originally published on PBS Next Avenue by Sherri Snelling

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place yet this is exactly what happened to Alan Osmond and his son David Osmond of the famous entertainment family.  This lightning came in two forms:  great musical and performing talent as well as a gift for songwriting but also something less glamorous:  a diagnosis of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS).

Alan and David Osmond

Alan and David Osmond

The Show Goes On for the Osmonds

Growing up Osmond means you know how to be at the pinnacle of the entertainment world – you sing, you dance and no matter what the show must go on.  This was no problem for David Osmond, one of eight sons born to Alan, the oldest of the famous Osmond Brothers who shot to fame along with Donny, Merrill, Wayne and Jay in the 1960s-70s (Marie and Jimmy came later).  As a torchbearer for the Osmond dynasty, David, age 32, has a successful solo career, still performs as the lead singer for the Osmonds – Second Generation, is hosting a new TV music competition reality series and participated in the eighth season of American Idol.

But, imagine if one day you woke up and found you could not walk, you could not hold a guitar, you could not sing because the pain in your chest and paralysis in your body reached from your toes to your diaphragm making it hard to breathe.  This was what David Osmond faced in 2005 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and went from a promising entertainment career into a wheelchair.  Remarkably, it was the same diagnosis his father, Alan, had been given almost 20 years earlier when he was in his late 30s.  What makes this story so inspiring is that for the Osmond family, whose longevity in show business is legendary, both Alan and David are not only living with MS today, they are actually thriving.

Multiple sclerosis, which affects 2.5 million people worldwide, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system and for which there is no cure.  Essentially, scars and lesions cause interference with the transmission of signals to the brain and spinal cord that then cause the unpredictable and often debilitating symptoms that MS patients experience such as numbness, tingling and searing pain in the extremities, periods of partial or full blindness, loss of sensory function such as taste or smell and even full paralysis.

While researchers feel there may be genetic predictors for MS (the National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that siblings or children of those with MS have a 1 in 40 risk of also having MS), there is no clear connection that one generation passes it to another.  What Alan did pass to his son David is a “can do” rather than a “can’t do” attitude towards living with MS.

“When I originally received the diagnosis, I had tested positive for West Nile Virus but some of the symptoms did not match up so they tested for MS and found I had the relapsing/remitting form of this disease which my doctors believe may have been dormant in my system but was triggered by the virus,” says David.  “I was in complete denial – I had grown up watching my dad battle MS and my symptoms were not really the same so I just could not believe it.”

There are four variations on the aggressiveness and progression of MS disease, Alan’s was the primary progressive type, a diagnosis only 15 percent of all MS patients receive.  With primary progressive there are no flare-ups or periods of remission such as with David’s type of MS – which means for Alan it is supposed to be a slow degeneration of the body’s functions.

Originally, David’s devastation took on the typical reaction people have when faced with a difficult diagnosis:  “Why me?”  He relates how one day while in a wheelchair he watched his brother playing on the floor with his kids and wondered to himself, “Will I ever have that?”  You can hear the emotion in his voice as he continues, “I’m almost embarrassed to admit that is how I felt because when I looked from my brother and nieces and nephews to my dad and realized, here is this man who has lived with this disease for 20 years and he has never complained, I realized life can go on and you can find ways around this disease just like my dad did.”

“I have a motto I live by – you have to be TUFF,” says Alan.  “It stands for: Target what you need to do; Understand everything you can about the challenge in front of you; Focus on how to live with or beat that challenge; Fight, Fight, Fight – you have to have the drive and desire to keep living and keep fighting for yourself and those around you.”

Family and Faith

Osmond father and son tackled MS the same way they approach the music business – all out or as Alan says “I may have MS but MS does not have me.”

“I was given a cortisone shot when I was first diagnosed in 1987,” says Alan, “and it just about killed me.  It was right then that I decided there has to be a better way and I started investigating alternative medicine that would not have the side effects of traditional drugs.”

Both Osmonds have found ways to deal with MS and overcome many obstacles and the dire prognosis of their physicians.  David was able to get up and out of his wheelchair with powerful steroid shots that helped him walk down the aisle with his beautiful bride, Valerie, a few years ago.  “I proposed to her from my wheelchair and she said, ‘Yes!’ so being able to walk down the aisle with her was something I just knew I had to do.”  He has not been back in his wheelchair since and the couple now has two beautiful daughters, ages one and three.

Valerie and David Osmond

Father and son embrace all-natural homeopathic remedies and David takes up to 50 all-natural supplements a day while Alan adds a daily dose of 2,000-5,000 IUs of Vitamin D; they believe in using essential oils, such as Frankincense, for aromatherapy and they follow a healthy diet based on gluten-free (wheat-based products) and casein-free (milk protein) foods with limited meat and other proteins.  The strict adherence to an all-natural diet which Alan blends into most of his meals has helped manage his MS symptoms and helped him lose 30 pounds.  Alan also enjoys hydro-exercise – the buoyancy of the water not only takes the pressure off of sometimes painful joints but also helps with balance while practicing movements.  In addition, both Alan and David avoid stimulants such as cigarettes, coffee or caffeinated sodas, which is part of their Church of Latter Day Saints faith, and they believe in the power of prayer and positive thinking.  If there is an Osmond prescription for helping to tame the symptoms of MS it is simply “family and faith.”

In fact, both Alan and David credit their wives, Suzanne and Valerie respectively, with the kind of unconditional love so essential in a spouse when someone is facing a chronic illness.  According to the National Health Institute Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of marriages among those couples dealing with a chronic illness end in divorce – 50 percent higher than the overall national divorce rate.

“There is a good side to every challenge in life,” says David.  “Sometimes dealing with something like multiple sclerosis can make your marriage better, I know both my wife and I have learned more patience with each other through this journey and I absolutely would not be where I am at today in conquering MS without her.”

Suzanne and Alan Osmond

Alan agrees that it was Suzanne who helped him seek the alternative remedies which have him defying all the odds with his prognosis.  All doctor predictions and prognosis pointed to Alan being in a wheelchair by now but instead Alan travels with Suzanne and is walking only occasionally using a leg brace or cart when he has to walk long distances.  Alan says, “It is not just one person who gets MS, it is the whole family.”  That is one of the reasons why Alan created his Web site, TheFamily, which addresses family issues around chronic illness and other life lessons.

Alan and David admit that they have learned a lot from each other through this journey with MS.  David says his dad has taught him to never feel sorry for himself, to embrace both the blessings and burdens in life with a positive attitude and to help as many people as you can with whatever you can.  Alan believes David has taught him what patience and perseverance are all about.

“I know it’s crazy to say, but it is actually a great time to have MS,” says David.  When his father was diagnosed more than 25 years ago, there were not a lot of options but today David, who sits on the board of the Nancy Davis Foundation for MS and attends her annual conferences for the foundation’s Center Without Walls says, “There are eight drugs on the market and several more being approved by the FDA as we speak.  The numerous choices we now have to attack this disease that is attacking our bodies – especially with the education about alternative, all-natural choices that I have made for my lifestyle – are encouraging.  I truly think we are going to lick this disease and the great research minds agree – they believe MS is one of the chronic illnesses that I may see a cure for in my lifetime.” (See more with David and other celebrities from the Nancy Davis Foundation for MS Race to Erase MS Event).

When I asked both Alan and David what are their private passions – both responded almost simultaneously with “spending time with family.”  While David enjoys sports like skiing even though his balance and agility are not what they used to be because of the MS, and Alan loves to continually learn new things and brainstorm on ideas – like teaching himself html code so he can build web sites – both men are happiest when surrounded by family.

As we wind up the interview, David is eager to get back to playing Legos and watching Disney movies with his two young daughters – a scene he was not sure he would have just a few years ago.  He says he wears a ring on his right hand that is engraved with ETTE – Endure To The End.  He says he has had the ring since before his MS diagnosis, so today he adds, “Endure to the end …of the day.”  With his girls calling for daddy from the other room, we say our “so longs” and I wish Alan happy birthday (June 22) and both men a happy Father’s Day.  I laugh as I later see a tweet from David – it says simply, “Going to make tshirts for my girls that say ‘Having MS gets on my dad’s nerves.’”

Book Cover SpotlightRead more of David and Alan Osmond’s story in Sherri Snelling’s book, A Cast of Caregivers,  which includes interviews with other celebrity caregivers as well as an A to Z guide on caregiving and how to balance self-care while caregiving. Click here to buy the book now.


Men As Caregivers

More than a “few good men” – fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, uncles now represent 45% of the 65 million caregivers.  Read Sherri’s PBS Next Avenue article about how men cope with caregiving and her blog about the famous men of caregiving.

 

 

The Music of the Night – Stars Step Into the Spotlight to Fight Alzheimer’s

On the Alzheimer's purple carpet ready to interview the evening's stars

On the Alzheimer’s purple carpet ready to interview the evening’s stars

LA Night at Sardis _head2Caregiving Club CEO, Sherri Snelling, was on the “purple carpet” in Beverly Hills to interview celebrities and other VIPs attending the 21st annual Alzheimer’s Association gala event, “A Night At Sardi’s.” Founded by Laurie Burrows Grad to honor her father, the late playwright/director Abe Burrows, these annual events have raised more than $21 million to support the Alzheimer’s Association mission. 

With a Song In Their Hearts

More than 1,000 luminaries poured into the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel which was transformed for the evening into the famous Sardi’s, the 90-year-old New York Broadway theater district’s landmark restaurant, to raise their voices and funds for Alzheimer’s research and programs.

I was on the purple carpet with my video crew as the cavalcade of stars entered the event and we were able to capture the following interviews with some of our favorite celebrities (View the interviews here on the AARP YouTube channel).

The Alzheimer’s Association reports more than 15 million Americans are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and one of the most high-profile dementia caregivers over the last year is Kim Campbell, wife of music legend Glen Campbell. It was the highlight of my evening to talk with Kim and her daughter Ashley about touring for Glen’s final farewell tour to promote his album, Ghosts on the Canvas. Both Kim and her daughter are beautiful blondes who have a glow that comes from within – their positive spirit, strong family bond and hopeful future outlook were obvious while we talked about a diagnosis which can often be devastating for families. They remind all of us what it takes to keep going every day and find the blessings that can come with caregiving.

Glen and Kim Campbell dreamstime_m_23475186 (2)

Kim Campbell, who has been married to her husband for 31 years, recalls the day he was diagnosed, Glen just released his final studio album and we wanted to go out and promote it when we heard he had Alzheimer’s.  It was hard for him but our kids are his band and we all surrounded him the best we could and he got out there and did it and we had a great time.”

As we talked about how difficult it can be for caregivers of those with dementia to cope emotionally and find time so they don’t neglect themselves Kim advised, “You need to have a support group, you need to have friends and family around you, you need to take care of yourself, you need to get a break from it because it is grueling to the caregiver 24/7.” She continued, “I’ve got this fabulous daughter and two sons that live nearby – it takes a lot of family and friends to juggle so you can have a little freedom to take care of yourself.”

When I asked Kim how she finds her “Me Time,” the former Radio City Music Hall Rockette responds with a sentiment from the Broadway hit, A Chorus Line, which is appropriate for the evening’s theme, “I go to ballet – everything is beautiful at the ballet.”

Ashley Campbell screen grabAshley Campbell, who is in her early 20s and gets her gorgeous looks from mom and her musical talents from dad, told me she has been touring with her dad since 2009. She plays guitar, banjo and keyboards and it is the highlight of the farewell tour concert to watch Ashley and Glen Campbell play dueling banjo/guitar.

 

“It’s been quite a ride,” said Ashley.  “To spend time with him is such a gift, especially when you know what’s happening, most people don’t know what’s happening and they take it for granted that their parents are there and with them – I’m just trying to spend every minute with my dad.”

Ashley and dad Glen performing during his 2012 Farewell Tour

Ashley and dad Glen performing during his 2012 Farewell Tour

At such a young age, Ashley is also acutely aware of the caregiving challenges and how she can help support her mom as part of the caregiving team for Glen.  “I’ve been living at home the last couple of years since my senior year of college to help out my mom because it’s not a one-person job.”  She also believes caregivers of those with dementia shouldn’t stay in the shadows, “Keep your friends around you and never be ashamed of what’s happening. You should never go through it alone.”

James Keach screen grabJames Keach, who produced the award-winning movie Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix playing Johnny Cash and Oscar®-winner Reese Witherspoon as June Carter, spent the last year with the Campbells making a film about Glen’s farewell tour and his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He told me, “The experience was life changing. I actually resisted doing a film about Alzheimer’s because I thought this is going to be really depressing but it’s actually turned my whole life around. Glen and his family are so in the moment, so supportive of one another and have really dedicated their life to changing the face of Alzheimer’s in America. I think Glen’s legacy won’t just be music, it will be what he’s done with this journey with Alzheimer’s.”

Ron Howard on stageRon Howard was on hand to present the Abe Burrows Entertainment Award to his producing partner, Brian Grazer.  After their experience directing/producing the Oscar®-winning film, A Beautiful Mind, both he and Brian became invested in the issues facing those with mental health problems and neurological disorders. “We both share an interest in the mind and how it works – when things are going well and what can be done when something is going wrong.”

As we talked about mental and emotional health for caregivers, Ron shared, “Every family is touched by it, let’s face it and when it strikes a family, no matter how learned the family might be, it resonates in very emotional ways. It’s something to be open about and very ambitious in trying to improve. What we need is knowledge; it can’t be left to families to solve their own problems, particularly when it comes to psychological and neurological issues which are so complicated.”

Ron Howard and I sharing a laugh during my interview at the Alzheimer's event

Ron Howard and I sharing a laugh during my interview at the Alzheimer’s event

Jason AlexanderJason Alexander is best known as George Costanza from the TV hit, Seinfeld, but his first love is on the Broadway stage, especially musical theater.  “We’re now at that age when we can’t remember where our car keys are and we’re worried, is this the beginning of Alzheimer’s?” said Jason. “We say it jokingly but this is one of those diseases that scares everybody so it would be nice to get rid of it.”

We talked about the power of music to help those with dementia. Jason has seen an older colleague – one of TV’s pioneers struggling with dementia – who knows every word of the songs he used to sing and perks right up when Jason is singing. “It’s a whole spark of life that comes together,” marvels Jason. “Music is an enormously wonderful tool to have in the arsenal to help people going through this.”

Emmy Rossum singingEmmy Rossum, stylish, talented young star of TV’s Shameless and a Broadway musical veteran revealed, “This year a friend of mine who is in her early 40s was diagnosed with early on-set and she had to leave her job.  It’s been really hard and she’s here tonight so I’m excited to donate any talents I have to making an amazing evening for everyone here and to raise some money for the charity.”

 

 

 

The main cast of TV’s hit comedy, The Big Bang Theory, has made time to perform at A Night At Sardi’s for the last five years.  This year they brought the house down with their version of Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The Emmy-winning star of the show, Jim Parsons said about Alzheimer’s disease, “There is no cure yet and it’s very important to keep attention on it until there is one.”

Big Bang Theory cast on the purple carpet

Big Bang Theory cast on the purple carpet

 

Big Bang Theory cast after performing "Rocky Horror Picture Show"

Big Bang Theory cast after performing “Rocky Horror Picture Show”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sentiment the night’s crowd is dedicated to – seeing an end to Alzheimer’s disease in our lifetime.

 

Booklovers – The Home of Caregiving Club Reading Lists

CC Reading List Books smallCaregiving Club realizes that caregivers have precious little time to read but we felt compelled to create our reading lists for you anyway.  You may only read a chapter at a time or pick up the book once your caregiving is done.  Or we hope those who have not yet stepped into the caregiving spotlight may read one of these books to help you prepare to care.

We’ve chosen our favorite books in the following categories (see below for full lists):  Family Caregiving, Spousal Caregiving, Alzheimer’s Caregiving, Caregiving and End of Life, Caregiving Spirituality and Inspiration, Caregiver Humor, Caregiving Books for Kids and Caregiver Health & Wellness.

We’ll be publishing these lists twice a year – March and November.  We chose those dates because March 2 is Read Across America Day – commemorating Dr. Seuss who was a caregiver for his wife.  November is National Family Caregiver Month and since it’s right before the holidays we felt it was a good time to update our lists.

If we missed a great book you feel other caregivers should read, let us know.  Email us at: info@caregivingclub.com.

And, don’t forget to add Caregiving Club CEO Sherri Snelling’s book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Careto your library.

Happy Reading!

Web family caregiving

Family Caregiving List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web spousal caregivingSpousal Caregiving List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web alzheimers caregivingAlzheimer’s Caregiving Journeys List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web end of lifeEnd of Life List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web caregiver health wellnessCaregiver Health and Wellness List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web inspirationSpiritual and Inspirational Caregiving List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web celeb caregiving journeysCelebrity Caregiving Journeys List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web humorHumor in Caregiving List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web caregiver kidsCaregiving Books for Children List vMar 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Caregiving Club Celebrates the Oscars!

Oscar Spotlight LG dreamstime_m_22803092 (2)Caregiving Club recognizes that pop culture unites us which is why we are celebrating movies that feature a caregiving theme with our reviews in the Caregiving Goes to the Movies pages.  Click here to read Sherri Snelling’s blog for Huff Post 50 about a trio of movies about caregiving that are part of this Sunday’s Oscars magic.

Let’s Get the Party Started – the Book Launch Event in Manhattan

“Casting is sometimes fate and destiny.” – Steven Spielberg

 

On Wednesday, February 13, a cast of characters will come together to fete the new non-fiction book by Sherri Snelling – A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care. Following is the script for this not-to-be-missed VIP party.

Library Hotel 2The Location:  Writer’s Den in the Bookmarks Lounge of the Library Hotel

The cocktail party crew will take over The Writer’s Den of the Bookmarks Lounge – a gorgeous book-infused space with leather armchairs, warm fireplace and enclosed atrium to be found on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Located on the same street – Madison Avenue – where Mad Men is set, in the shadow of the historic Empire State Building (where Sleepless in Seattle has its final romantic scene) and down the street from the iconic and appropriate New York Public Library (where Mr. Big jilted Carrie for take one of their wedding in the Sex and the City movie), there is no better place for a party about a book which has a movie/TV motif.

Location Location Location

Location Location Location

The Producers: Hosted by Alex Witt and Brooks Kenny – friends of the author

lucy-and-ethelThe former is Sherri’s USC sorority sister – a long-running friendship with a bond which lives up to the quote, “A good friend gives you bail money, a best friend is sitting in the jail cell beside you.”  Just picture Lucy and Ethel.

Fey-Poehler2The latter is a newly forged friendship based on their projects together as Lotsa Helping Hands and Caregiving Club, that may not have the history of the first but has the depth of girl power with a lot of laughs and hugs. Think Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Ali Brooks and MeWhen you put Alex, Sherri and Brooks in a line-up all you can think of is Legally Blonde.

The entire production is made possible only through the generous underwriting of Lotsa Helping Hands headed by CEO Hal Chapel.  He is our Mark Cuban for the evening.

breakfast-at-tiffanys-party-scene

The Cast: The VIPs

Although there will be no red carpet, this is a VIP, invitation-only event for those in the world of caregiving and publishing or friends of the blondes.  Picture the fabulous party scene from Breakfast at Tiffanys and you get the picture.  Luminaries include:  Joni Evans of wowOwow, Beth O’Connell of NBC/Universal, Sherri’s editors from Next Avenue – Gary Drevitch and Rich Eisenberg, Huffington Post and Jane Farr of ThirdAge, Leigh Haber from O Magazine,  Steve Heyman from the New York Times Magazine and Ben Dickinson of ELLE, pr and advertising gurus such as Scott Daly of Dentsu USA, Sean Woods and Amanda Bonzo of RLM Finbury, Golin/Harris, James Grant of JGPR, Glover Park Group and Vincent Esposito from Media Planet; the healthy and caring team from The Monday Campaigns including Sid Lerner, Peggy Neu and Cherry Dumaual, corporate friends such as Michael Duffett of Canon and caregiving advocates including Alan Blaustein, CEO of CarePlanners, Robert Bua, CEO of CareScout, a Genworth company, Greg Johnson of EmblemHealth, Dr. Mary Mittleman from NYU, Gig Barton of RLTV, Celeste Carlucci of Fall Stop Move Strong, Rie Nirregaard of Omhu, as well as non-profit organizations and fellow authors and writers and broadcasters.

The Headliner: Author and caregiving expert – Sherri Snelling

Sherri says she feels like a combination of two Oscar winners: Sally Field in her 1985 Oscar speech, “You like me, you really like me!” and Julia Roberts as she took the stage as best actress in 2001, “I love it up here – I don’t want to leave! I love the world! I’m so happy! Thank you!”  With a group of Friends for which she feels blessed, and great reviews for her book, including one from caregiving pioneer former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, for which she feels giddy, this will be A Night to Remember.

Oscars Sally and Julia

CastofCaregivers Cover FINAL

The Book:

A Cast of Caregivers –

Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care

A blend of celebrity caregiving stories, expert advice on what to expect when caring for a loved one, self-help wisdom for caregiver wellness and pop culture references to help the reader embark on a journey of preparing to care for a family member or other loved one.  Click here to read more about the book and the author and read the advance reviews.

Book Buzz

Following are the advance reviews from industry experts, media and book reviewers for Sherri Snelling’s A Cast of Caregivers.

Click here for the Book Poster (or view below): Advance Reviews A Cast of Caregivers

Photo: The Carter Center

Photo: The Carter Center

“These stories capture the essence of the emotional rewards as well as the turmoil that one experiences as a caregiver.”

–Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

rosalynn_carter_institute_for_caregiving_color rci

“…a ‘home run’… informative and inspiring for those preparing for or engaged in a caregiving journey.”

–Dr. Leisa Easom, Executive Director – Rosalynn Carter Caregiving Institute 

AARP

“Well-researched, delightfully readable…smart advice…thumbs way up!”

–Sally Abrahms, AARP caregiving blogger

alzheimer's association

“…a living, breathing, upbeat conversation replete with valuable information, resources and practical advice – no caregiver should be without it!”

–Richard Della Penna, M.D. and Alzheimer’s Association national board member 

Kirkus-Reviews

“Snelling’s authoritative debut offers expert advice and relatable celebrity stories for families and friends struggling to balance caregiving with everyday life…a sourcebook like this will likely be reassuring and essential…a smart, informative manual intended to help people take care of their loved ones while also taking care of themselves.”

Kirkus Reviews

Motion Picture TV Fund

A Cast of Caregivers demonstrates Hollywood’s commitment to the noble notion of caring for our own… we applaud Sherri Snelling for shining her spotlight… on each of us who are caring for a loved one.”

–Ken Scherer, CEO – Motion Picture & TV Fund Foundation

Mary Furlong Turning Silver Into Gold

“Corporate America needs to buy this book to understand the issues facing their workforce and how Sherri Snelling can help them navigate. This is not just a U.S. issue – the complexities of aging societies are the next global phenomenon and this books speaks to the fundamental tools every world citizen needs to care for our loved ones.”

–Mary Furlong, PhD., author of Turning Silver Into Gold

lotsalogo_horz300dpi (2)

“Sherri Snelling has done it! Her book thoughtfully and with creative flair provides what caregivers need – an organized roadmap for what they can do to get the help they need for themselves and their loved ones. Whether caring for an aging parent, a child with a special need or a spouse coping with an unexpected life challenge, Snelling has captured the very best ways for caregivers to cope with expert advice and unifying celebrity stories. Bravo!”

–Hal Chapel, CEO – Lotsa Helping Hands

Caring dot com

“Upbeat, fun and practical – a welcome addition to the space!”

–Andy Cohen, CEO – Caring.com

Carescout

“Snelling gets it…you will laugh, you will cry reading these stories – but most of all you will learn you are not alone.”

–Robert Bua, President – CareScout, a Genworth company

next avenue

“Sherri Snelling is one of the smartest people I know on the subject of caregiving… her expertise is especially timely and valuable.”

–Rich Eisenberg, Sr. Editor – PBS NextAvenue.org

foreword-reviews

“…an eye-opening book that will be a great help and comfort to the many caregivers in American society…quite fascinating”

Foreward Reviews

Karyn Buxman full _Logo1

“As a nurse I am a professional caregiver. As a daughter I have been a caregiver…Wow! I wish I’d had a copy of A Cast of Caregivers while my mom struggled with Alzheimer’s. This book contains the answers you’re looking for…it is brilliant.’’

–Karyn Buxman, RN, MSN, author – What’s So Funny About…Diabetes

alzheimers_speaks_logo

“…this is a long overdue book…brilliant…lighthearted…superb…the lessons learned apply in a variety of areas in our life.”

–Lori LaBey, CEO & Founder – Alzheimer’s Speaks

Advance Reviews 2.22.13

Highlights of 2012: 12 Months of Happy, Health, Humor and Hanging Out with Great Friends

2012 HighlightsEvery New Year’s Eve I spend a few minutes reflecting back on last year’s highlights.  Following is a month by month review of those high notes for me personally and for Caregiving Club including:   Kicking off Caregiving Club TV with our red carpet celebrity interviews, finishing my caregiving book, speaking at conferences across the country and especially keeping up with friends who are supporting and advocating for the nation’s 65 million caregivers.  Cheers to a great year and more ahead in 2013.

JANUARY

I kicked the year off by co-hosting the Silvers Summit Conference at the annual International CES Conference in Las Vegas.  I especially have to thank my keynote speakers for the day:  Martin Cooper, inventor of the cell phone, Emilio Pardo, senior leader of brand at AARP and keynote interviewer extraordinaire (and best friend) Alex Witt of MSNBC

L to R:  Me, Martin Cooper, Alex Witt (MSNBC)

L to R: Me, Martin Cooper, Alex Witt (MSNBC)

 

 

 

L to R: Me, Ceiva executive, Alex Witt (MSNBC), Emilio Pardo (AARP)

L to R: Me, Ceiva executive, Alex Witt (MSNBC), Emilio Pardo (AARP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hrp headshotInterviewed one of my favorite people and “real” celebrities – Holly Robinson Peete.  I wrote her story for a ThirdAge article and for my upcoming book, A Cast of Caregivers.  Holly faces caregiving as she does life – with humor, hope and a fierce sense of “just do it” attitude – love it!  She cared for a father with Parkinson’s disease and a teen son who has autism.

caregivers monday _logo

Proud to kick off our Me Time Monday℠ video tips every Monday – in support of Caregiver’s Monday campaign from the nonprofit organization that supports Healthy Mondays.

FEBRUARY

Sylvia and I strike a pose in front of her Baltimore home

Sylvia and I strike a pose in front of her Baltimore home

Had a wonderful time doing a 1-on-1 interview with Sylvia Mackey during the Lotsa Helping Hands webinar.  I met Sylvia in 2011 when I interviewed her for my upcoming book and found her delightful and insightful.  She was wife and caregiver to NFL champion Baltimore Colt John Mackey who suffered from frontotemperal dementia.

MARCH

Screen Grab Sherri Snelling and Event LogoMarch was a busy month, we started with our first Caregiving Club TV “red carpet” interviews with celebrities at the Alzheimer’s Association A Night At Sardi’s event.  I talked to David Hyde Pierce, Jane Seymour, Peter Gallagher, Joey McIntytre, Marilu Henner and others. Thanks to Erin Heintz and Susan Galeas of the Alzheimer’s Association for getting us on the “purple” carpet and to our sponsor, Lotsa Helping Hands who helped fund our red carpet interviews this year.

Interviewing David Hyde Pierce

Interviewing David Hyde Pierce

 

Getting a laugh out of Peter Gallagher when I told him Covert Affairs was one of my favorite TV shows – he cared for his mom for 20 years

Getting a laugh out of Peter Gallagher when I told him Covert Affairs was one of my favorite TV shows – he cared
for his mom for 20 years

Interviewed two Dancing with the Stars alums who also are caregivers: actress Jane Seymour and former boybander Joey McIntyre

Interviewed two Dancing with the Stars alums who also are caregivers: actress Jane Seymour and former boy
bander Joey McIntyre

Marilu Henner told me about her TV role on Unforgettable playing a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s

Marilu Henner told me about her TV role on Unforgettable playing a woman with early on-set Alzheimer’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASA and Boomer Summit 2012Headed to Washington, D.C. to catch up with my favorite industry colleagues and participate as a speaker at both the American Society on Aging Conference and Boomer Summit Conference.  Met wonderful new friends at CareScout, Independa, National Association of Homebuilders and Natural Marketing Institute when I moderated one of the Boomer Summit panels.

Gail Sheehy, Myrna Blyth, TravelGirl, Mary Furlong“Hanging out” in Mary Furlong’s suite with women I admire (from R to L): Mary Furlong (the ultimate boomer authority and connector), Renee Werbin (editor – TravelGirl Magazine), Myrna Blyth (women’s editor legend for Ladies Home Journal, MORE, ThirdAge), Gail Sheehy (renowned author) and yours truly

 

 

Elliott Jacobson RLTV and me at Boomer Summit 2012Catching up with Elliott Jacobsen, head of programming at RLTV – he was instrumental in helping me get our TV pilot, Handle With Care premiered on this cable channel dedicated to the 50+ audience

Brooks Kenny, Hal Chapel and me at Boomer Summit 2012Striking a pose with favorite friends from Lotsa Helping Hands – Brooks Kenny (CMO) and Hal Chapel (CEO) at the Italian Embassy event hosted by Mary Furlong and Associates.

lunden_joanClosed out a whirlwind month with an interview with Joan Lunden for my upcoming book and articles on Huffington Post and ThirdAge. I first met Joan filming a caregiving special for RLTV called Taking Care with Joan Lunden – she is the ultimate Sandwich Generation caregiver and a real inspiration.

APRIL

Expanded my blog syndicate to include PBS/Next Avenue and EmpowerHer – love being able to write about caregiving issues for an audience that needs the information and support.  Also was signed by prestigious the prestigious speakers bureau, American Program Bureau.

 MARG HEADSHOTInterviewed the wonderful Marg Helgenberger for my upcoming book and for articles on ThirdAge.  She was a really wonderful interview and I wish her the best after her 12-year run on TV’s CSI.

MAY

Screen Grab Sherri Snelling and Event LogoIn Beverly Hills this month to interview Nancy Davis prior to her upcoming charity event.  I am a huge Fan as Nancy puts her resources and passion into finding a cure for multiple sclerosis – a disease she lives with every day.  I was thrilled to be invited by Nancy to interview her circle of celebrity friends at her Nancy Davis Foundation Race to Erase MS Event where Caregiving Club TV hit the “orange carpet.” We spoke to Marg Helgenberger (on tape this time!), Cybill Shepherd, David Osmond, LaToya Jackson, Shaun Robinson, Lea Thompson and Taylor Hicks.

Me interviewing Nancy Davis - MS charity champion

Me interviewing Nancy Davis – MS charity champion

Me catching up wth Marg Helgenberger

Me catching up wth Marg Helgenberger

Interviewing one of my favorite actresses - Cybill Shepherd

Interviewing one of my favorite actresses – Cybill Shepherd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a few laughs with David and Valerie Osmond

Having a few laughs with David and Valerie Osmond

Catching both Shaun Robinson and Taylor Hicks for caregiving comments

Catching both Shaun Robinson and Taylor Hicks for caregiving comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jill and Mike croppedI was so happy to get the call that Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker – those wonderful actors from TV’s L.A. Law and husband & wife team – agreed to an interview for my book and a ThirdAge article.  I cannot think of a better example of a couple who face caregiving (taking care of Jill’s mom with dementia) and have come out stronger through the experience. They are the best example of how spouses need to back each other up through this life event we all face.

JUNE

Alan and David cropped from DavidMy publisher’s deadline for my book is looming and I’m pulling out the stops on my celebrity interviews for the manuscript.  I decided I needed to represent the “men” and was so elated when I contacted David Osmond and he recruited his father, Alan, for our interview.  Both men live with debilitating multiple sclerosis and talked to me about the caregivers – their wives – in their lives and gave me the care receiver’s perspective on caregiving. It is impossible not to feel like you can conquer any challenge in your life after talking to these two inspirational men.  My interview with them also appeared on PBS/Next Avenue.

boomer_Venture summit2Took a quick trip up to Santa Clara University in Northern California to moderate a panel at the Boomer Venture Summit with Brooks Kenny of Lotsa Helping Hands and John Feather of Grantmakers in Aging.

JULY

Whoever said writing a book was like having a baby was right!  I am coming up on my publisher’s deadline to finish my manuscript and I am only getting 4 hours sleep a night, living in my Lululemon workout clothes, have abandoned make-up and social gatherings…ugh

alana-stewart-headshot-002 (2) from AlanaAfter a few weeks of trying to schedule an interview with the very busy Alana Stewart – we finally connected.  Alana was important to me to include in my book because in all my celebrity caregiving research she represents that rarest of best friends – putting her life on hold for three years to help Farrah Fawcett battle cancer.  Alana has become a passionate advocate and real authority for alternative cancer treatments and now heads the Farrah Fawcett Foundation.  My interview with her also appeared on ThirdAge.

AUGUST

Rosalynn Carter at Home in Plains, GAGot to check one thing off my “bucket list” when I interviewed former First Lady Rosalynn Carter for her 85th birthday and a conversation about the need for more caregiver awareness, education and support – especially for those with mental illness and brain-related disorders.  The interview was for PBS/Next Avenue and her Rosalynn Carter Institute at Georgia Southwestern State University was highlighted as a national leader in this area.  At 85 she is still a force to reckon with and told me she was looking forward to a little “me time” as she was leaving on vacation for one of her favorite pasttimes:  fly fishing with former President Jimmy Carter.

SEPTEMBER

lotsalogo_vert300dpi (2)Delighted to be invited by my friends at Lotsa Helping Hands to conduct another Webinar for their members – this time on the Sandwich Generation Juggling Act.  Lotsa offers free private communities to help caregivers receive the volunteer help they so need to get a break.

AARP Convention 2012Attended the AARP Convention in New Orleans and spent quality time with one of my favorite colleagues – Bob Stein, CEO of American Society on Aging.  There were a lot of great speakers (Hoda Kotb – Today and Emeril Lagasse to name two) and great booths.  I especially loved Billy Crystal giving us his insights and a sneak peek into his new film, Parental Guidance coming this Christmas.

Me and Bob Stein (ASA) dining at Bayona restaurant – one of Bob’s recommendations and it was great!

Me and Bob Stein (ASA) dining at Bayona restaurant – one of Bob’s recommendations and it was great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER

Screen Grab Sherri Snelling and Event LogoTHE thrill of a lifetime – got to interview George Clooney at our third Caregiving Club TV red carpet event, Carousel of Hope Ball for the Barbara Davis Foundation benefitting diabetes research.  Also talked to my favorite celebrities Holly Robinson Peete, Quincy Jones, Neil Diamond, Smokey Robinson and a personal hero of mine – Sherry Lansing – first woman to ever head a Hollywood studio.

Getting a couple of minutes with gorgeous George

Getting a couple of minutes with gorgeous George

Catching up with the gorgeous Holly Robinson Peete

Catching up with the gorgeous Holly Robinson Peete

Talking to Quincy Jones and Smokey Robinson about music therapy

Talking to Quincy Jones and Smokey Robinson about music therapy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewing two of my heroes:  Neil Diamond and Sherry Lansing

Interviewing two of my heroes: Neil Diamond and Sherry Lansing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alz, PBS, Helen BaderSo delighted to head to Milwaukee and speak at the first “Community Conversation on Caregiving” by PBS/Next Avenue hosted and taped by Milwaukee Public TV.  I also spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association Milwaukee chapter the next day.  All thanks to the sponsor Helen Bader Foundation – long-standing advocates for Alzheimer’s disease awareness and caregiver support.

NOVEMBER

Top 10 Logo and Dr. OzJust in time for National Caregiver Month AND National Alzheimer’s Month, I was honored to be named #4 to the Top 10 List of Alzheimer’s Influencers by Sharecare, the online health and wellness expert’s site created by Dr. Oz.

 

 

 

In celebration of National Caregiver Month, my friends at Lotsa Helping Hands asked me to conduct another Webinar – this time the topic was “A Cast of Caregivers – Caregiving 101” from my book on how to find the right senior housing, in-home care and transportation for your older loved one.  Thanks for having me, Lotsa!

DECEMBER

Book Cover SpotlightOne of my lifelong dreams – writing a book – is ready to come true.  My book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care, is at the printer and will be available at online retailers and booksellers nationwide next February from Balboa Press, division of Hay House Publishing.

The book arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day – quite appropriate since it was a labor of love and on a topic near and dear to my heart – helping caregivers care for themselves while caring for others.  Cheers – here is to a wonderful 2013!

 

 

 

 

The Stars Come Out for Hope and Help to Conquer Diabetes

Barbara Davis is a small, slight woman who looked like a fairy princess at her recent gala event – but don’t be fooled – this woman is a giant force gathering L.A.’s finest to raise dollars and awareness for diabetes.  For more than 35 years, her Carousel of Hope Balls to benefit the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, have raised more than $75 million and are always the VIP ticket for L.A.’s entertainment and society crowd.

According to the American Diabetes Association more than 25 million people – both children and adults – are living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and an additional 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic.  Barbara Davis and her late husband, Marvin Davis, the billionaire Colorado oil baron and former owner of Twentieth Century Fox, created their foundation based on their experiences with their daughter Dana who was a child when she was diagnosed with diabetes.  Another daughter, Nancy, has multiple sclerosis and started her own foundation which holds the Race to Erase MS event every year.

Held bi-annually at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the Carousel of Hope Ball never fails to deliver Hollywood’s elite coming together for food, music and fund-raising. Caregiving Club TV was invited onto the red carpet to interview the galaxy of stars who came out to support Barbara but also to honor the night’s award recipient, George Clooney. We asked the celebrities about caregiving and we also asked some of the night’s music legends – including Neil Diamond, Smokey Robinson and Quincy Jones – about the power of music to help us heal. Here are some of the highlights of the evening:

 George Clooney – The man of the hour is just as he appears in many of his movie roles: charming, gracious, gorgeous and full of mischief.  As flashbulbs went crazy we were able to get a couple of minutes of George’s time to ask him about his award.  When talking about chronic disease such as diabetes and third world challenges, George turns serious and passionate about making sure as a society we don’t drop the ball on helping others.  He said to me, “Diabetes is at almost epidemic proportions, I’m hoping that whatever you can do to bring attention to it is a good thing.”  We hear you George.

 

Holly Robinson Peete – Actress, author and advocate Holly was beautiful in a jade-colored gown.  She is a Sandwich Generation caregiver – squeezed between caring for two generations – having cared for a father with Parkinson’s disease and a son living with autism.  Holly (whom I also interviewed for my upcoming caregiving book), talked to us about advances in autism and how important it is for caregivers to get a break for themselves so they do not burn-out.  “You have to find time to focus on yourself and take some time off from caregiving occasionally – you’re not good to anybody if you’re not taking care of yourself.”

Neil Diamond – Before he became a best-selling singer/songwriter (115 million records worldwide), Grammy winner and according to Billboard the third-most successful adult contemporary artist (behind only Barbra Streisand and Elton John), Neil Diamond actually contemplated a career as a laboratory biologist to find a cure for the cancer that had taken his grandmother.  He told me “I think it’s everything,” to have family and friends around you as you battle a chronic illness or disability.  Tonight he performed onstage and even coaxed George Clooney into a duet on his famous “Sweet Caroline.”

Neil Diamond and George Clooney sing “Sweet Caroline”

Smokey Robinson – Motown and Grammy legend, Smokey talked to us about the power of music to help heal our bodies and our souls.  He told me, “Music is the universal language, it transcends all people, languages and continents and it’s a gift from God which is why it soothes the soul and mind and the body and I am so happy I am in it.”

Sherry Lansing – The first woman to run a major Hollywood studio, Sherry was president of Twentieth Century Fox and CEO of Paramount Pictures and now runs her own foundation to support cancer research and programs.  She talked to me about caregivers needing a break and how great it is to be a woman in her third age, “I think the third chapter is the best part of life – it’s about your time, you get to do what you want to do and for me it’s about giving back and it’s the best time of life.”  She also said about caregiving, “My message is to not neglect yourself.  If you do, you’ll never be able to take care of the other person – you must put yourself first, get enough sleep and take care of yourself.”

Quincy Jones – For more than five decades Quincy Jones has been an impresario in the music world – as performer, songwriter, producer (Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Off the Wall albums) and 27-time Grammy Award winner.  He told me about his current work providing music therapy programs to children with Down syndrome and autism and adults with Alzheimer’s disease, “[It’s] Unbelievable, we are knee deep in music therapy now for autism, dyslexia, ADD and six other diseases. Music engages both sides of the brain and helps calm and soothe many patients.”

Harry Hamlin – Harry and his wife, actress and talk show host, Lisa Rinna, recently starred in a Depends commercial helping to destigmatize one of the issues [incontinence] that happens as we age or have a disease which affects our neurological functions.  Both Harry and Lisa have been through caregiving with their parents and I talked to Harry about this, “We depend on our families when disease strikes, it’s always a tough moment in life, it’s a moment that is inevitable and if we can be there for our parents, it just makes it that much better.”

Loretta Devine –  Loretta has had a recurring guest starring role on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy as wife of Chief Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), Adele, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  I recently gave her and James an award in our Caregiving Club 4th Annual CARE-Y Awards for best caregiving stories on television.  Loretta told us she is one of the 79 million pre-diabetics and she finds family and friends are essential in keeping her on track when you are battling a chronic illness.

Gene Simmons – Lead singer for the iconic rock band, KISS, Gene had a father he lost to complications of diabetes and his mother currently suffers from the disease. He told us, “It’s in my genes and I have to watch how much sugar I intake…sugar is not your friend.”

 

Donna Mills – This long-time TV actress  from the 80s Knots Landing to today’s Nip/Tuck has been a long-time friend of Barbara Davis and told me, “If Barbara has anything to say about this [diabetes], they will find a cure and they’re going to find it soon.”

Nancy Davis – She is living with multiple sclerosis but also supports her mother in her advocacy efforts and her sister Dana who suffers from diabetes. Nancy stopped to talk to me about the importance of family caregivers, “When you or a loved one are diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-altering disease, it is devastating and you feel all alone.  There is nothing like having family and friends around you to make you feel normal and help you get the help and information you need – these advocates can help you think clearly when you are still in shock over your diagnosis.”

Barbara Davis – As a mother with two daughters battling devastating disease, Barbara knows the important role family caregivers play.  Turning her passion into advocacy for diabetes and multiple sclerosis is her legacy as she tells me, “I want everybody to be wonderful, I want everybody to be healthy – no more kidney disease, no more stroke, no more heart disease – that’s why I do this.”

In addition to the above stars, the night’s event also included:  Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Sumner Redstone, Clive Davis, Berry Gordy, Sidney Poitier, Jay Leno, Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars, Rock of Ages), Candy Spelling, Nicky Hilton, Sasha Alexander (Rizzoli & Isles), Nicollete Sheridan, Jennie Garth, Jackie and Joan Collins and others.

Click here to view the Caregiving Club Carousel of Hope Ball celebrity interviews, or visit our Caregiving Club You Tube channel to view all our celebrity event videos.

Celebrities In the Fight for the Cure for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, as with all chronic illnesses, does not discriminate.  Despite, race, religion, geography, age, gender, the size of your paycheck or the number of your friends or fans on Facebook, breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women and 1 in 1000 men with an estimated 230,000 new cases each year for women and more than 2,000 for men.  The good news is there are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors today.

This October, we celebrate the “celebrity” survivors and those famous family caregivers who have lovingly taken care of a friend or family member.

The Survivors – The Pioneers

Shirley Temple Black is recognized as the first public figure to discuss her breast cancer diagnosis in 1973.  She got the ball rolling for a global movement which has helped raise awareness, funds and preventive measures.

Julia Child – a 36-year survivor she talked about her breast cancer many years after she found a lump in 1968 at age 55.  In typical Julia style she told her surgeon as he wheeled her into the operating room, if the lump was malignant to “lop it off.”  She was back filming her TV show 2 weeks later because as she told People magazine, “I did not want to be whiny.”

 

The Family Caregivers

Emma Stone –the hot new 23-year-old film star (The Help, Spider-Man) is Revlon’s new breast cancer awareness ambassador and cared for her mother, a survivor.

 

Elizabeth Hurley – Spokesmodel for Estee Lauder’s Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign since 1995, Hurley lost her grandmother to breast cancer.  She also lost good friend and breast cancer advocate Evelyn Lauder last year to nongenetic ovarian cancer having beat breast cancer in 1989.

Marg Helgenberger – Long before her star turn on TV’s CSI, she was a young college student when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  With her mother a more than 30-year survivor, Marg has been a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen, Safeway Foundation Stand up 2 Cancer and held her own celebrity golf tournament in her home state of Nebraska to raise awareness and funds to beat the disease.

Rob Lowe – The Parks and Recreation TV star’s grandmother and great-grandmother suffered from breast cancer before today’s breakthrough treatments.

Sisters and actresses, Patricia and Rosanna Arquette lost their mom to breast cancer in 1997.

Rosie O’Donnell – TV host and comedian lost her mom at age 39 to breast cancer when Rosie was only 10.

The Survivors – TV & Film Stars

Christina Applegate – The NBC Up All Night TV star was diagnosed at age 36 in 2008.  She opted for a double mastectomy even though the lump was only in one breast.   Applegate—who tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation which indicates a predisposition to recurrence chose the radical surgery because of family history – her mom had beat breast cancer twice.

 

Brigitte Bardot – She retired from films in 1973 and a decade later France’s reigning sex goddess received her diagnosis at age 49 despite a lifelong vegetarian diet.

Kathy Bates – Just last month this film (Misery, Titanic) and TV star (Harry’s Law) underwent a double mastectomy but survival is part of her game plan since she beat ovarian cancer in 2003.

 

Diahann Carroll – She’s starred on TV ever since the groundbreaking 1970s show, Julia, including  juicy guest starring roles on Dynasty and Grey’s Anatomy but her message is to post-menopausal women to get their mammograms since her 1998 diagnosis at age 63.

Jill Eikenberry – She was first diagnosed in 1986 as her star was rising with TV’s L.A. Law starring alongside husband Michael Tucker.  A 26-year survivor she is now caregiver for her mother with dementia.

Edie Falco – She stars on TV’s Nurse Jackie but it was back in 2003 at age 40 while starring on HBO’s Sopranos that she underwent surgery and chemotherapy while never missing a day’s work.  She credits her abstinence from drinking and smoking 15 years earlier with helping her beat her cancer.

Jane Fonda – While promoting her latest health and fitness DVD, Fonda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 age 72.  Early detection helped to not slow her down and today she is cancer-free.

Cynthia Nixon – It was only two years after playing the practical Miranda on Sex and the City – that she was diagnosed in 2006 at age 40.  After a lumpectomy and a clean bill of health, she became a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Stand Up 2 Cancer.

 

Dame Maggie Smith – She plays the meddling matriarch on PBS’s popular Downton Abbey but back in 2007 at age 73 she was beating her breast cancer diagnosis.

Suzanne Somers – In 2001 at age 54, she created a controversy after refusing chemotherapy following surgery and radiation but her alternative medicine efforts have kept her cancer-free to this day.

 

Wanda Sykes –Las year at age 47 this comedian who provides voices in the Muppets and Ice Age movies announced her breast cancer diagnosis.

Maura Tierney – Three years ago, this ER star was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease at age 44.  Today she plays a caregiver in The Drama of Aging and Caregiving Webisodes airing on YouTube.

 

Two “Angels” – Both Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith who starred in TV’s iconic Charlie’s Angels series have faced breast cancer.  Jackson, diagnosed at age 39 in 1987 and again in 1989; Smith in 2002 at age 56.

 

The Survivors – The Songbirds

Sheryl Crow – She was diagnosed as age 44 in 2006 but credits early detection, herbal remedies and acupuncture with her surviving and thriving today.

Melissa Ethridge – It was 2004 at age 43 that she received her diagnosis but at the 2005 Grammy Awards she belted out Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart – bald, defiant and better than ever.

Patti LaBelle – Diagnosed in 2005 this R&B legend is cancer-free today.

Kylie Minogue – Only 37 in 2005 when she was diagnosed and beat breast cancer after chemotherapy.

Olivia Newton-John –  In 1992 she found a lump in her breast – the same weekend her father passed away.  In addition to surgery and chemotherapy, she used meditation, yoga and homeopathy to keep her cancer at bay.

 

Carly Simon – Diagnosed in 1997 at age 64 she  wrote the song Scar about her ordeal.

 

The Survivors – The Newsmakers

Nancy Brinker – She founded Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation in 1982 as a promise to her dying sister whom she eventually lost at age 36.  To date, the foundation in her sister’s name has raised $1.5 billion for cancer research, education and health services. Nancy became a breast cancer survivor herself after being diagnosed in 1989.

Betty Ford brought many issues into the public forum including her 1974 breast cancer diagnosis at age 56 just weeks after she and her husband Gerald became President and First Lady.

Betsey Johnson – Fashion designer Betsy Johnson known for her black and pink dominant eclectic designs was diagnosed in 2002.

 

Hoda Kotb – Diagnosed in 2006 she underwent a mastectomy.  This normally upbeat Today host (along with zany sidekick Kathie Lee Gifford) told MSNBC her only regret is that “cancer robbed me of the chance to be a biological mother.”

 

Sandra Day O’Connor, who was diagnosed in 1998 returned to court just 5 days later, receiving chemotherapy while sitting on the bench.  She wore a wig to cover her hair loss but continued to serve as the first woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court.

 

Guiliana Rancic – Proving that breast cancer can strike at a young age, E! Fashion Police and Guiliana and Bill star was diagnosed last year at age 36 and underwent a double mastectomy.  She learned of her diagnosis while going through infertility treatments.  She has no family history.

Nancy Reagan – During her husband’s second term as President in 1987, First Lady Nancy, age 66, had a mastectomy after her breast cancer diagnosis.

Cokie Roberts –The long-term news political analyst for NPR and ABC news was diagnosed in 2002 at age 59.

Robin Roberts announced on the air in 2007 as co-host of Good Morning America that at age 46 she found a lump in her breast during a self-exam.  That was five years ago.  Now a breast cancer survivor, she is currently battling a serious blood cancer disease and last month underwent a bone marrow transplant with her sister as donor.

Ann Romney – presidential candidate Mitt’s wife underwent a 2008 lumpectomy at age 59.  She gracefully survives cancer just as she is gracefully living with multiple sclerosis since her diagnosis in 1998.

Nancy Shevell McCartney– Third wife of Paul McCartney (they married in 2011) beat her breast cancer diagnosis in 1998 in her 30s – around the same time that Paul lost his first wife Linda to the disease.

 

Gloria Steinem –This forward-thinking women’s movement pioneer never saw her diagnosis coming when she found she had breast cancer at age 55 in 1986. After the news and her subsequent lumpectomy and radiation she created a movement around her own health and wellness.

Rene Syler – This former CBS This Morning host had both her mom AND her dad survive breast cancer (her father had a radical double mastectomy).  She decided to have a preventive mastectomy when a mammogram showed signs that were said to be precursors to possible future diagnosis. Now 6 years later she is cancer-free and happy with her controversial decision.

 

The Survivors –  The Athletes

Both Olympic ice skating gold medalists, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill have beaten breast cancer.  Fleming in 1998 at age 50 and Hamill in 2008 at age 48 when she switched to a plant-based diet.

Martina Navratilova – In February 2010 she was stunned by her breast cancer diagnosis.  After a lifetime of physical fitness as a world-class tennis star, she had foregone mammograms for a few years but fortunately caught her cancer early.

 The Survivors – The Men

George Lucas –Although he has never spoken publicly about his diagnosis, he supports Stand up 2 Cancer with the LucasFilms “Force for Good” Campaign and is a big donor to breast cancer causes.

Richard Roundtree best known for his 1971 star turn in Shaft he has recently been seen on TV in The Closer and Heroes.  In 1993 he was diagnosed with rare male breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy at age 61.

 

Caregiving Book

Sherri Snelling’s book — the “What to Expect When You’re Caregiving” how-to guide — includes interviews with celebrities and their caregiving lessons learned, as well as the A to Z guide on how to care for a loved one AND care for you at the same time.

Click here to read more about A Cast of Caregivers.