Joan Lunden’s Coast to Coast Caregiving Coverage

NewsletterAdI’ve had the privilege of interviewing Joan Lunden several times over the last few years. She is an inspiration – as a woman warrior battling breast cancer, as a mom of seven (!!), as a successful businesswoman and as a caregiver to her mom whom she lost in  2013. I  first met Joan on the set of a special TV program Joan hosted for RLTV, “Taking Care with Joan Lunden,” where Joan interviewed me as an expert on caring for an older loved one at home.  The following is an excerpt from my book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care, which includes Joan’s caregiving story.

Wake Up Call to Caregiving

For 17 years throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she woke us all with “Good Morning America” as co-host of ABC-TV’s national morning show.  But, it was 10 years ago that Joan Lunden, the sunny, blonde, California-born and raised TV journalist received her own wake-up call.

She remembers it like it was yesterday.  In her words, “It 100 percent shook me up.”  It was back in 2005, that her brother Jeff, who had long suffered from Type II diabetes, passed away.  Joan had been caregiving for both her ailing brother as well as her then 87-year-old mother, Gladyce.

While her brother suffered the ravages of diabetes – blurred vision, headaches, operations on hands and feet, etc. – her mother, Gladyce suffered from signs of dementia and had several mini strokes over the years.  For both their safety and Joan’s peace of mind, she had purchased a condominium in the Sacramento, California area where Joan had grown up and paid for them both to live there together.

Meanwhile, Joan lived across the country with her home base on the East Coast where she was raising two sets of twins under the age of 10 with her second husband and playing “empty nest” mom to her three older daughters from her first marriage.  In addition, she had not slowed down since leaving “Good Morning America” in 1997, traveling the country as a spokesperson on healthy living, authoring several books, and managing a growing business focused on healthy living.

Joan was both a Sandwich Generation caregiver – one of the 24 million Americans caring for children and a parent simultaneously and thus, sandwiched between caregiving duties – and a long-distance caregiver.  More than 8 million caregivers care for a loved one long distance – whether they are two hours away or across the country as in Joan’s case.  This makes caregiving more difficult – you are not there every day to see the small things which can be warning signs that something is changing and your loved one needs more care.

Joan and her mother, Gladys

Joan and her mother, Gladys

The Sunrise, Sunset of Alzheimer’s 

Although she mourned her only brother’s passing, it was not his death that rocked Joan’s world.  It was the realization that her mother’s dementia was so much worse than even she knew.

“My mom had ‘sundowners,’ a typical symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s where the person becomes irritated, irrational and sometimes violent as the sun is setting,” explained Joan.  She also showed signs of paranoia especially after Joan moved her mother into an assisted living facility.

“Mom was afraid to go downstairs and visit with the other residents, they frightened her and yet she could not tell us why,” said Joan.

Joan soon realized that she had been overlooking her mother’s real needs and issues. “It is easy to overlook things when you live far away from your loved one,” says Joan.  “They put on a happy face and they seem fine and you may see small things but you want them to be fine.”

Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans today, can also be a sneaky disease.  An older loved appears relatively healthy and fine physically but is suffering from dementia that can cause sudden mood shifts or other emotional problems, especially frightfulness and forgetfulness.  It is only through the activities of daily living that one sees how critical proper care becomes. The long-distance care Joan had ben providing her mom had given her blinders to her mom’s real needs.

Joan encountered what I call “Goldilocks Syndrome” trying out several facilities before finally finding the right environment for her mother’s health needs and happiness. After Gladyce suffered several falls breaking her foot, her rib, then hitting her head and needing staples did Joan realize a specialized care facility would be necessary.

The social worker at the hospital where Gladyce was treated for her falls put Joan in touch with a senior care facility advisor.  The advisor assigned to Joan assessed Gladyce’s needs and then took Joan and Gladyce on a tour of several facilities that she thought would work.  They settled upon a small residential care facility with just six residents in a large home setting.

Press Hat dreamstime_m_11320792 (2)Using Her Journalistic Instincts – Tracking Down Leads

When Joan’s brother passed away, it was left to Joan to decide if her mother could continue living independently with some personal care assistance from an outside agency or a professional.  In addition, Joan needed to go through all the paperwork for her mother that her brother had been handling.  Joan, her brother and her mother had been a threesome as Joan grew up since her father was tragically killed in a plane crash when Joan was only 14.

Faced with a mass of paperwork and a lot of missing documentation, Joan got down to doing what she does best – investigating.  As a journalist you have to be inquisitive and look for clues to the real story.  In Joan’s case she had to search through mountains of paperwork and become an amateur genealogist to be able to help her mother.  She could not access her mother’s bank account, she could not find a social security card or driver’s license, and she had nothing to go on except she knew her mother’s maiden name.

An elder law attorney that Joan had secured advised her to find her mother’s birth and marriage certificates.  This would be verification for the Social Security office to issue her mother a duplicate card since Joan could not find the original.

In addition, Joan would have to have her mother authorize her as a co-signer on the bank account and grant her access to health insurance and other critical information that has privacy protection.  Thank goodness in Joan’s case her mother was still lucid enough to authorize her daughter to help – in many caregiving situations the loved one can no longer provide that authorization and it becomes a costly and time-consuming legal burden for the caregiver to get this done.

“You think you know your parents but then something like this happens and you realize maybe you do not know as much as you should,” says Joan.  This is especially true when it comes to verifying records and making decisions on their behalf.

In retrospect, Joan says, “I wish I had the family meeting before the crisis in care happened but I am typical.  The crisis happened and all of a sudden you have to become an instant expert at so many issues around elder care.”

Joan’s advice to all caregivers, current and future, is to take a page from her long-running morning show career.

“Have the conversation, start the dialogue, do the interview with your loved one,” she advises.  “And, most importantly, don’t stop communicating – talk to your loved one as often as possible, talk to their doctor, ask questions, talk to the facility administrators and health care professionals – stay on it .  It is the most important tool you have – it keeps you connected to your loved one and to the essential care needs they have.”

Joan Lunden People Magazine Oct 2014Joan lost her mother in 2013 but is following in her energetic mother’s footsteps. Taking on a new role as a breast cancer survivor, Joan’s lifelong healthy eating habits now include a non-GMO diet. As the poster gal for 60 being the new 40, Joan says her caregiving experience has given her new insights into the message of “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”  Her inspirational attitude is captured in a book she co-authored about caregiving stories, Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul.

 

 

©2015 Sherri Snelling

Joan Lunden – Breast Cancer Warrior on Caregiving Legacies

This article originally appeared on Next Avenue

When she stepped out onto the stage at a recent AARP convention, Joan Lunden looked as sunny and radiant as she always has as a 17-year co-host on “Good Morning America” in the ‘80s and ‘90s and more recently as the healthy living guru and businesswoman who inspires everyone she touches.

She came to talk to the gathered baby boomer and beyond crowd about caregiving – a role she had played with her mother whom she lost in 2013. But with bright eyes and a perfectly coifed hairstyle, Lunden said she wanted first to address “the elephant in the room.” A month earlier, Lunden, age 64, had gone public with the news that she was one of the 232,670 new cases of breast cancer among women in the U.S.  She announced she had just finished 12 weeks of chemotherapy and would enter another round of the cancer-killing therapy in a couple of weeks. As she smiled at the supportive crowd, she seemed strong and vulnerable at the same time.

Lunden’s life had been a series of triumphs and challenges. As a young girl, she lost her father, who was a cancer surgeon, in a plane crash. As she began her career as a TV broadcast journalist, it was during this period she had become caregiver to her brother, who had health complications from type 2 diabetes, and her aging mother who was eventually diagnosed with dementia.  She says what she realizes now that she did not at the time, is that caring for her brother and mother simultaneously over 30 years ago is when her caregiving journey began.  After GMA, she became a health advocate, writing books, making speeches and continuing to bring her California-girl sunshine to the masses, all the while crisscrossing the country from her East Coast home to the brother and mother who needed her care on the West Coast. After divorcing her first husband, she found love again with current husband, Jeff Konigsberg, only to face infertility issues and opt for surrogacy to have her last four children (two sets of twins who joined Joan’s three older daughters from her first marriage).

NewsletterAdI met Joan in 2010 when she interviewed me as a caregiving expert on a special RLTV program called “Taking Care with Joan Lunden.”  Since then, I have interviewed her a few times over the years and am always amazed at her boundless energy, her “you can do it” attitude and her genuine interest in people and their lives. Although her life reads like a Lifetime movie, the up and down Lunden roller-coaster has never impacted her exuberance. Joan credits her parents for her optimism. She said, “My mom was the ultimate positive thinker and my dad was a doer.”

It is this positive outlook that brings Joan a lifeforce which I know will help her conquer breast cancer and is the same prescription that made her a model caregiver.  What she learned as a caregiver is now empowering her as a cancer warrior.

For instance, Joan told me she had guilt over not moving her mother closer to her while her mom lived her last years with dementia. Eventually, Joan realized that removing her mother from her comfort zone of the California sunshine and dear friends to colder climes on the East Coast, would not have solved the problem. Joan was traveling constantly during those last years and would not have had much more time to care for her mother even if she had lived down the street. The staff at the California dementia care home where she eventually moved her mom reminded Joan that the periods between visits were inconsequential to someone with dementia who has lost ability to understand space and time.

Joan also expressed guilt over being diagnosed with breast cancer. Advocating for healthy eating much of her adult life, she says she felt that somehow she must have done something wrong along the way. Joan realizes now she was paying lip service to reading food labels – ignoring the real information.  She said, “The American diet is the best fertilizer for growing cancer.” Today Joan eats clean and has eliminated wheat, dairy and sugar from her diet and advocates for avoiding GMO foods (genetically modified organisms).

Having the strength and energy to battle cancer is the same diet plan caregivers need to have the stamina to keep caring for a loved one. And letting go of guilt is the ingredient for a strong emotional core during caregiving challenges.

Joan also looks for the silver linings in life – a lesson all caregivers need to push through some difficult and overwhelming feelings. When it came to dementia and caring for her mom, Joan realized she had to let go of trying to bring her mother back into Joan’s world. Instead Joan had to step into her mom’s world. When she showed her mom photos of her grown daughters, her mother would express confusion or lack of interest in not knowing these people. But when Joan swapped those photos with some of her and her brother as children and included some of her parents as young newlyweds, her mother’s face would light up. Along the way, Joan learned new things about her parent’s early life that she felt she would have missed if her mother did not have the cognitive impairment that made them both refresh memories from long ago.

When it comes to cancer, Joan said her silver lining is in recognizing the irony of losing her adored father who just happened to be a cancer surgeon. His plane crashed returning from a conference where he was training other cancer doctors.  When Joan was first diagnosed, she pondered whether or not to go public with the news. As she told the AARP crowd, “I thought it was ridiculous I could stay private with this news – it would break somehow. But my second thought was I had always wanted to follow in my dad footsteps and become a surgeon but scalpels and blades where not my thing. However, my dad gave his life training others about cancer – now I can follow his footsteps and do the same thing.”

Joan Lunden People Magazine Oct 2014As I look at the beautiful, bold, bald cover photo of Joan on this week’s People magazine, it is clear she is our teacher, our healer, our cheerleader and our role model in caregiving and in caring for ourselves.

Sherri has interviewed Joan several times over the years and included Joan’s caregiving story in her book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.

Joan Lunden’s Coast to Coast Caregiving Coverage

I first met Joan Lunden on the set of a special TV program Joan hosted for RLTV, “Taking Care with Joan Lunden,” where Joan interviewed me as an expert on caring for an older loved one at home.  I turned the tables on Joan and interviewed the famous interviewer for this story which is excerpted from my book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.

Golden Girl

lunden_joanFor 17 years throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she woke us all with “Good Morning America” as co-host of ABC-TV’s national morning show.  But, it was only six years ago that Joan Lunden, the sunny, blonde, California-born and raised TV journalist received her own wake-up call.

She remembers it like it was yesterday.  In her words, “It 100 percent shook me up.”  It was back in 2005, that her brother Jeff, who had long suffered from Type II diabetes, passed away.  Joan had been caregiving for both her ailing brother as well as her then 87-year-old mother, Gladyce.  While her brother suffered the ravages of diabetes – blurred vision, headaches, operations on hands and feet, etc. – her mother, Gladyce suffered from signs of dementia and had several mini strokes over the years.  For both their safety and Joan’s peace of mind, she had purchased a condominium in the Sacramento, California area where Joan had grown up and paid for them both to live there together.

Meanwhile, Joan lived across the country with her home base on the East Coast where she was raising two sets of twins under the age of 10 with her second husband and playing “empty nest” mom to her three older daughters from her first marriage.  In addition, she had not slowed down since leaving “Good Morning America” in 1997, traveling the country as a spokesperson on healthy living, authoring several books, and managing a growing business focused on healthy living.

Joan was both a Sandwich Generation caregiver – one of the 24 million Americans caring for children and a parent simultaneously and thus, sandwiched between caregiving duties – and a long-distance caregiver.  More than eight million caregivers care for a loved one long distance – whether they are two hours away or across the country as in Joan’s case.  This makes caregiving more difficult – you are not there every day to see the small things which can be warning signs that something is changing and your loved one needs more care.

Sunrise, Sunset

Although she mourned her only brother’s passing, it was not his death that rocked Joan’s world.  It was the realization that her mother’s dementia was so much worse than even she knew.

“My mom had ‘sundowners,’ a typical symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s where the person becomes irritated, irrational and sometimes violent as the sun is setting,” explained Joan.  She also showed signs of paranoia especially after Joan moved her mother into an assisted living facility.

“Mom was afraid to go downstairs and visit with the other residents, they frightened her and yet she could not tell us why,” said Joan.

Joan soon realized that she had been overlooking her mother’s real needs and issues. “It is easy to overlook things when you live far away from your loved one,” says Joan.  “They put on a happy face and they seem fine and you may see small things but you want them to be fine.”

Alzheimer’s and dementia, which affects more than five million Americans today, can also be a sneaky disease.  An older loved appears relatively healthy and fine physically but is suffering from dementia that can cause sudden mood shifts or other emotional problems, especially frightfulness and forgetfulness.  It is only through the activities of daily living that one sees how critical proper care becomes and Joan had not seen this before.

Joan encountered what I call “Goldilocks Syndrome” trying out several facilities before finally finding the right environment for her mother’s health needs and happiness. After Gladyce suffered several falls breaking her foot, her rib, then hitting her head and needing staples did Joan realize a specialized care facility would be necessary.  The social worker at the hospital where Gladyce was treated for her falls put Joan in touch with a senior care facility advisor.  The advisor assigned to Joan assessed Gladyce’s needs and then took Joan and Gladyce on a tour of several facilities that she thought would work.  They settled upon a small residential care facility with just six residents in a large home setting.

Using Her Journalistic Instincts – Tracking Down Leads

Glady and Joan 93 Bday 3 (2)When Joan’s brother passed away, it was left to Joan to decide if her mother could continue living independently with some personal care assistance from an outside agency or a professional.  In addition, Joan needed to go through all the paperwork for her mother that her brother had been handling.  Joan, her brother and her mother had been a threesome as Joan grew up since her father was tragically killed in a plane crash when Joan was only 14.

Faced with a mass of paperwork and a lot of missing documentation, Joan got down to doing what she does best – investigating.  As a journalist you have to be inquisitive and look for clues to the real story.  In Joan’s case she had to search through mountains of paperwork and become an amateur genealogist to be able to help her mother.  She could not access her mother’s bank account, she could not find a social security card or driver’s license, and she had nothing to go on except she knew her mother’s maiden name.

An elder law attorney that Joan had secured advised her to find her mother’s birth and marriage certificates.  This would be verification for the Social Security office to issue her mother a duplicate card since Joan could not find the original.

In addition, Joan would have to have her mother authorize her as a co-signer on the bank account and grant her access to health insurance and other critical information that has privacy protection.  Thank goodness in Joan’s case her mother was still lucid enough to authorize her daughter to help – in many caregiving situations the loved one can no longer provide that authorization and it becomes a costly and time-consuming burden for the caregiver to get this done.

“You think you know your parents but then something like this happens and you realize maybe you do not know as much as you should,” says Joan.  This is especially true when it comes to verifying records and making decisions on their behalf.

In retrospect, Joan says, “I wish I had the family meeting before the crisis in care happened but I am typical.  The crisis happened and all of a sudden you have to become an instant expert at so many issues around elder care.”

Joan’s advice to all caregivers, current and future, is to take a page from her long-running morning show career.  “Have the conversation, start the dialogue, do the interview with your loved one,” she says.  “And, most importantly, don’t stop communicating – talk to your loved one as often as possible, talk to their doctor, ask questions, talk to the facility administrators and health care professionals – stay on it .  It is the most important tool you have – it keeps you connected to your loved one and to the essential care needs they have.”

Joan recently lost her mother, who was known as “Glitzy Glady” at the memory car residential facility she called home.  Joan is following in her energetic mother’s footsteps. As the poster gal for 60 being the new 40, Joan says she is healthier today than she has ever been in her life and that her caregiving experience has given her new insights into the message of “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”  Her inspirational attitude is captured in a book she co-authored about caregiving stories, Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Caregiver Interviews

When it comes to caregiving, celebrities from TV, films, sports, news and music are just like the rest of us.  While some may have more financial resources available to them, they still face a fragmented health care system and experience the emotional roller coaster that is the caregiving journey.  Our Caregiving Club CEO Sherri Snelling has been interviewing these celebrities for articles and her new book to be published in 2013.  Read the latest Celebrity Caregiver Interviews below.

 

Glenn Close

Jodie Foster

Marg Helgenberger

Diane Keaton

Joan Lunden

Sylvia Mackey – Mrs. 88

David Murdock

Suze Orman

Alan & David Osmond

Holly Robinson Peete

Brooke Shields

Alana Stewart

Jill Eikenberry & Michael Tucker

Meredith Vieira

Reese Witherspoon

Catherine Zeta Jones

 

Celebrity Caregiving Interviews Oct 2013

Joan Lunden’s Coast to Coast Caregiving Coverage

Sherri Snelling recently spoke to Joan Lunden of TV morning show and healthy living fame about her role as a Sandwich Generation and long-distance caregiver for her mother.  Sherri met Joan on the set of a special program Joan hosted, “Taking Care with Joan Lunden,” where Joan interviewed Sherri as an expert on caring for an older loved one at home.  Sherri turned the tables on Joan and interviewed the famous interviewer for this story. Joan has co-authored a new book on caregiving stories, Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul, available March 13.

For 17 years throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she woke us all with “Good Morning America” as co-host of ABC-TV’s national morning show.  But, it was only six years ago that Joan Lunden, the sunny, blonde, California-born and raised TV journalist received her own wake-up call.

She remembers it like it was yesterday.  In her words, “it 100 percent shook me up.”  It was back in 2005, that her brother Jeff, who had long suffered from Type II diabetes, passed away.  Joan had been caregiving for both her ailing brother as well as her then 87-year-old mother, Gladyce.  While her brother suffered the ravages of diabetes – blurred vision, headaches, operations on hands and feet, etc. – her mother, Gladyce suffered from signs of dementia and had several mini strokes over the years.  For both their safety and Joan’s peace of mind, she had purchased a condominium in the Sacramento, California area where Joan had grown up and paid for them both to live there together.

Meanwhile, Joan lived across the country with her home base on the East Coast where she was raising two sets of twins under the age of 10 with her second husband and playing “empty nest” mom to her three older daughters from her first marriage.  In addition, she had not slowed down since leaving “Good Morning America” in 1997, traveling the country as a spokesperson on healthy living, authoring several books, and managing a growing business focused on healthy living.

Joan was both a Sandwich Generation caregiver – caring for children and a parent simultaneously and thus, sandwiched between caregiving duties – and a long-distance caregiver.  More than eight million caregivers care for a loved one long distance – whether they are two hours away or across the country as in Joan’s case.  This makes caregiving more difficult – you are not there every day to see the small things which can be warning signs that something is changing and your loved one needs more care.

Sunrise, Sunset

Although she mourned her only brother’s passing, it was not his death that rocked Joan’s world.  It was the realization that her mother’s dementia was so much worse than even she knew.

“My mom had ‘sundowners,’ a typical symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s where the person becomes irritated, irrational and sometimes violent as the sun is setting,” explained Joan.  She also showed signs of paranoia especially after Joan moved her mother into an assisted living facility.

“Mom was afraid to go downstairs and visit with the other residents, they frightened her and yet she could not tell us why,” said Joan.

Joan soon realized that she had been overlooking her mother’s real needs and issues. “It is easy to overlook things when you live far away from your loved one,” says Joan.  “They put on a happy face and they seem fine and you may see small things but you want them to be fine.”

Alzheimer’s and dementia, which affects more than five million Americans today, can also be a sneaky disease.  An older loved appears relatively healthy and fine physically but is suffering from dementia that can cause sudden mood shifts or other emotional problems, especially frightfulness and forgetfulness.  It is only through the activities of daily living that one sees how critical proper care becomes and Joan had not seen this before.

After Gladyce suffered several falls breaking her foot, her rib, then hitting her head and needing staples did Joan realize a specialized care facility would be necessary.  The social worker at the hospital where Gladyce was treated for her falls put Joan in touch with a senior care facility advisor.  The advisor assigned to Joan assessed Gladyce’s needs and then took Joan and Gladyce on a tour of several facilities that she thought would work.  They settled upon a small residential care facility with just six residents in a large home setting.

Using Her Journalistic Instincts – Tracking Down Leads

When Joan’s brother passed away, it was left to Joan to decide if her mother could continue living independently with some personal care assistance from an outside agency or a professional.  In addition, Joan needed to go through all the paperwork for her mother that her brother had been handling.  Joan, her brother and her mother had been a threesome as Joan grew up since her father was tragically killed in a plane crash when Joan was only 14.

Faced with a mass of paperwork and a lot of missing documentation, Joan got down to doing what she does best – investigating.  As a journalist you have to be inquisitive and look for clues to the real story.  In Joan’s case she had to search through mountains of paperwork and become an amateur genealogist to be able to help her mother.  She could not access her mother’s bank account, she could not find a social security card or driver’s license, and she had nothing to go on except she knew her mother’s maiden name.

An elder law attorney that Joan had secured advised her to find her mother’s birth and marriage certificates.  This would be verification for the Social Security office to issue her mother a duplicate card since Joan could not find the original.

In addition, Joan would have to have her mother authorize her as a co-signer on the bank account and grant her access to health insurance and other critical information that has privacy protection.  Thank goodness in Joan’s case her mother was still lucid enough to authorize her daughter to help – in many caregiving situations the loved one can no longer provide that authorization and it becomes a costly and time-consuming burden for the caregiver to get this done.

“You think you know your parents but then something like this happens and you realize maybe you do not know as much as you should,” says Joan.  This is especially true when it comes to verifying records and making decisions on their behalf.

In retrospect, Joan says, “I wish I had the family meeting before the crisis in care happened but I am typical.  The crisis happened and all of a sudden you have to become an instant expert at so many issues around elder care.”

Joan’s advice to all caregivers, current and future, is to take a page from her long-running morning show career.  “Have the conversation, start the dialogue, do the interview with your loved one,” she says.  “And, most importantly, don’t stop communicating – talk to your loved one as often as possible, talk to their doctor, ask questions, talk to the facility administrators and health care professionals – stay on it .  It is the most important tool you have – it keeps you connected to your loved one and to the essential care needs they have.”

Joan recently celebrated her mom’s 93rd birthday at her residential care home where her mother is known as “Glitzy Glady.”  For someone who is the poster “gal” for 60 being the new 40, Joan says she is healthier today than she has ever been in her life and that her caregiving experience has given her new insights into the message of “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”  As Joan learned from her TV experience and in the famous words of fictional heroine Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Sherri Snelling is writing a  book on celebrity caregivers and the lessons of love and caring that will be published in November, 2012.

Celebrity Spotlight

Caregiving Club CEO, Sherri Snelling, interviews celebrities from movies, TV, Broadway, sports, news and music who are or have been a family caregiver.

See the latest interview in the series below or click here to read all the interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Caregivers During Read Across America Day

As a book lover, I celebrate Read Across America Day (March 2) every year by creating my book list for the coming year and settling on the couch with my first pick.  I love this day because it is a reminder that although as a society we may crave the visual stimulation of TV, the movies or YouTube, nothing beats beautiful words in an engaging book (just read Pride and Prejudice – you will float away to another world on Austen’s delicious turn of phrase).

For those who may not be aware Read Across America Day was created to honor the birthday of Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Geisel.  And, what is even less well-known is that Dr. Seuss was a caregiver for his first wife.  For several years during perhaps his most productive writing phase when he penned The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and others, Geisel’s first wife, Helen was suffering from several chronic illnesses including battling cancer.

While I know that caregivers have precious little time to read, I thought in honor of Dr. Seuss, our celebrated caregiver, I would put together my CliffsNotes for you on some caregiving books that I think you will enjoy and find valuable.

Caregiving Club’s 1st Annual Reading List

I have to start my list with two celebrities that I have recently interviewed about their caregiving journeys:  Joan Lunden and Michael Tucker (who is co-caregiver to wife Jill Eikenberry’s mother).

Chicken Soup for the Soul – Family Caregivers – this book is part of the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and will be available March 13.  The book is co-authored by Joan Lunden, a caregiver for her 93-year-old mother, and Amy Newmark.  It is a compilation of 101 short, inspirational stories from real-life caregivers.  Since each chapter is short you can read them easily or jump to the ones that are most interesting to you.  This is a similar but updated version of the 2004 book of the same title.

 

 

 

Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry have spent the last 39 years as co-stars both on-screen (TV’s “L.A. Law”) and off-screen.  Their most challenging roles happened a few years ago when Jill became caregiver to her mother with Mike by her side to keep her steady and provide the support she needed.  Mike chronicled their caregiving journey in Family Meals – one of the best books I have read on finding the “funny” in some not so funny situations of caring for an in-law with Alzheimer’s.  I highly recommend Family Meals to caregivers because laughter can be great medicine and I literally laughed out loud reading this book.  It is also a great book for spouses of caregivers – Mike’s example of being there for Jill and finding their entire family coming together in caregiving is not only poignant but also inspirational.

Although I have not yet read it, Mike’s first novel, After Annie, deals with the aftermath of a caregiving situation and arrives in bookstores and online March 2.  This novel should prove to be as entertaining and filled with belly-aching humor as his non-fiction work.

This beautiful book is written with the real and raw moments of a wife caring for her husband as he battles Stage IV pancreatic cancer.  Lisa Niemi Swayze lets us see her bravery and her vulnerability by writing in Worth Fighting For about the good and bad moments with actor husband, Patrick.  She does not dive into sentimentality but rather lets us see the reality of losing a beloved spouse.  She epitomizes one of my favorite quotes, “The art of living is the art of letting go gracefully.”

 

 

 

As First Lady of California, Maria Shriver continued her mission to lead a movement to empower women (and she has not stopped since leaving the governor’s mansion).  One of the most comprehensive but readable reports running the gamut of short real-life caregiver stories, research information and policy issues,  The Shriver Report – A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, is a beacon in a country where we are still in the dark about a disease that will have tremendous impact on our society over the next 20 years.  Ten million American women are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease – either as the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or the caregiver for someone with the disease.   This report captures everything you need to know about Alzheimer’s with more tools and resources found at alz.org.

Rodney Peete, husband to actress and autism activist, Holly Robinson Peete whom I interviewed for my book, is best known for his amazing athletic skills on the football field.   His book, Not My Boy!  A Dad’s Journey with Autism, is written from the heart about fathers and sons.  The book chronicles Rodney’s learning to accept his eldest son R.J.’s autism and his eventual solutions to find a way to live in R.J.’s world.  Men represent 34 percent of all caregivers and this book showcases how men can be strong and caring at the same time.

 

 

Other caregiving books worth noting:

  • Passages in Caregiving by Gail Sheehy is a 400-page comprehensive look at the stages of caregiving from this celebrated author
  • Alzheimer’s Prevention Program by Dr. Gary Small highlights ways we can train our brains for better health
  • A Bittersweet Season:  Caring For Our Aging Parents – and Ourselves by Jane Gross, New York Times “New Old Age” blogger writes about caregiving for her mother
  • The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook by Dr. Diane Denholm writes about the impact to marriage when caregiving becomes the new normal
  • A Mother’s Daugther’s Journey by Celia Pomerantz is a joyous journey about how music can transform a mother with Alzheimer’s and give hope to her daughter
  • They’re Your Parents Too! by Francine Russo showcases the stress and strife that can happen when siblings do not agree on how to care for aging parents
  • The Silverado Story by Loren Shook and Stephen Winner  is about the memory care center culture where love conquers fear

Next year I will be able to add my caregiving book to the list – a fascinating look at celebrities who have been caregivers to moms, dads, husbands, wives, siblings and other loved ones with lessons learned and tips from the stars on how to find your “me time.”

Happy reading!

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

For the last three years I have bestowed my own version of the Emmy Awards – something I call the CARE-Y Awards™ that acknowledges the TV programming that showcases caregivers and caregiving situations.  I also have bestowed honors on those TV personalities and talent who are real-life (as opposed to reel-life) caregivers.

Here are my top picks for 2011 Third Annual CARE-Y Awards from the Caregiving Club:

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

Best Spousal Caregiver: Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.) who is the hospital chief of surgery on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy plays the loving husband of wife Adele (played by Loretta Devine) who has early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Best Caregiver of a Parent: Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) plays the caregiver of a mother (Kate Burton) with Alzheimer’s disease on ABC-TV’s Grey’s Anatomy.   Burton also happens to be an Alzheimer’s Association Champion in real life.

Best Long Distance Caregiver – Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) on AMC’s Mad Men cared very deeply for Anna, the woman who really knew him and kept his secrets.  While he lived in New York City and Anna was in San Pedro, California, he took care of her bills and when he discovered she had cancer, he kept up the illusion her sister created that everything would be fine so as not to upset her (this is a 1960s era show – when no one talked about cancer.)

Best Circle of CareThe big C on Showtime with its zany cast and great writing is all about the “caregivers” around Cathy (played by Laura Linney) – who is doing most of the caring as she battles stage 4 cancer.  The care team is led by her husband Paul (played by Oliver Platt) and includes her son, her brother, her new gay “cancer” friend and her new live-in friend who helps Cathy out mentally and physically.

Best Caregiving Special or Documentary: Taking Care with Joan Lunden is a four-part series produced by RLTV, showcasing the real life stories and experts on the millions of Americans who care for aging loved ones.  (I was thrilled to be one of the experts on this program with the wonderful Joan Lunden – see more on her below).

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

Best Caregiver Morning Show Host – Meredith Viera of NBC’s Today Show, who became (for me) the poster heroine for how to balance self-care and caring for a loved one.  Although her husband, who has multiple sclerosis and had battled colon cancer in the past, does not yet require a lot of care – Meredith discussed openly how she wanted to share these years with her husband before his health declines.   Special mention also goes to her fellow morning host Matt Lauer, who cared for his father and talked eloquently about hospice care in his father’s final months and days, and to fellow host Natalie Morales who is an Alzheimer’s Association Champion.

Best Caregiver Talk Show Host – Holly Robinson Peete, who is one of the hosts of The Talk and who has a son living with autism.  While 44 million Americans care for a loved one over age 50, there are almost 12 million Americans caring for a child under age 18 who is suffering from a chronic illness or physical disability.

 

Best Caregiver Lead Actor in a Drama Series – Peter Gallagher, who plays Arthur Campbell, head of the CIA on Covert Affairs on USA Network.  Peter was a caregiver for his mother who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years.  Peter is an Alzheimer’s Association Champion – a disease which impacts more than 5 million Americans today.  In fact, every 69 seconds someone develops the disease.

Best Caregiver Actress in a TV Movie – Tracy Pollan, who played Beth Holloway, mother of Natalee Holloway who disappeared in Aruba, in Justice for Natalee on Lifetime TV.  Tracy is the wife of actor and advocate Michael J. Fox who has been living with Parkinson’s disease for 20 years.  While Michael’s medication and surgeries have kept him mostly independent, Tracy is still a wonderful caregiver for her husband and example of the “Sandwich Generation” as she also has cared for four children since his diagnosis.

Best Caregiver Supporting Actor in a Comedy – Rob Lowe who plays Chris on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, is a big advocate for breast cancer early detection and research.  This disease has taken its toll on the women in Lowe’s family – his great-grandmother, grandmother and mom (who passed away in 2003) suffered with breast cancer.

 

Best Caregiver Home Shopping Show Star – the aforementioned and wonderful Joan Lunden is the epitome of the Sandwich Generation caregiver – she has two (yes – two!) sets of young twins and cares long-distance for her 91-year old mother who suffers from dementia.  Joan recently launched her Joan Lunden Home on QVC.

Best Young Caregiver Lead Actor in a Comedy – Ashton Kutcher, the king of Twitter and highly anticipated new addition to CBS’s Two and a Half Men, was a young caregiver.  His twin brother, Michael, who was born with cerebral palsy underwent a heart transplant at age 13.  He said “Ashton never left my side when I was in the hospital.”  Today, there are more than one million children under age 18 who care for ailing parents or grandparents.

Best Caregiver Supporting Actress in a Comedy – another Two and a Half Men guest star, Jenny McCarthy is the loving caregiver to her autistic son, Evan, and has also been a passionate advocate for education around autism in children.

 

 

Best Caregiver Actress in a Comedy – The beautiful Sofia Vergara who stars on ABC’s Modern Family, cared for her boyfriend who was in a terrible auto accident breaking his leg and fracturing his pelvis.  When he was released from the hospital, he faced months of rehabilitation and credits Sofia for his care and recovery.

Best Caregiver Lead Actress in a Dramedy – Marcia Cross who plays the uptight Bree on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, is caregiver to her husband, Tom, who is battling throat cancer (same disease that Michael Douglas beat earlier this year). Marcia is no stranger to caregiving, she cared for her long-time partner, Richard Jordan, before he passed away in 1993 from a brain tumor.

Best Caregiver Evening News Anchor – Although she recently left this historic job as the first female news anchor for a nightly news show, Katie Couric, former anchor of CBS Evening News with 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.

Best Caregiver in a Top-Rated Drama – Marg Helgenberger of the original CSI(CBS) cares for her father who has multiple sclerosis.

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.  See below for the 2010 and 2009 CARE-Y Award winners.

Second Annual CARE-Y Awards Sep 2010

First Annual CARE-Y Awards Sep 2009