Leeza Gibbons, noted American talk show host and the founder of Leeza's Place ("A Place for Family Caregivers"), shared her personal caregiving story with Sue Zawacki, host of Aging Info Radio, which broadcasts each Saturday morning from Elk Grove Village from 6-7 am on AM 560WIND.
Opening the show, Sue reminded listeners that there are 65 million caregivers in the U.S., representing one out of every four adults.
Leeza started Leeza's Place in 2002 as a community gathering place and resource center committed to providing free support services, resources and programs for family caregivers taking care of a loved one with a memory disorder or any chronic and/or progressive illness. There are two Leeza's Places in California, two in Florida, and one in Joliet, Illinois
The evolution of Leeza's Place started after Leeza and her family, over the course of 10 years, watched their mother succumb to Alzheimer's disease. After her mother's death, Leeza recognized that when she first needed help she had no place to turn to for caregiving guidance and support, so she started Leeza's Place.
"Caregiving can be an isolating experience. You just want to pull the covers over your head because you are temporarily frozen and don't know what to do. But eventually you will find some answers that will give you the inner strength that will help you cope," said Leeza, who added that Leeza's Place is designed for just that purpose.
Leeza suggested that caregiving puts an enormous stress on the family and it can lead to resentment and resistance, but this should not diminish the love within the family. Leeza noted that it is not unusual for caregivers to experience compassion fatigue, but she warns that this has short and long term implications.
"My book: 'Take Your Oxygen First,' urge caregivers to take care of themselves first. It may sound selfish, but caregivers need to refresh and nourish themselves because they are not in a sprint but must last the distance so they have the energy to continue care," said Leeza.
To spread her message, Leeza participates in free live monthly webcasts, via the site: alzheimersdisease.com
"You need to give yourself permission to be dysfunctional. There will be some bumps, but each day you can start again and get things right. You'll find that you'll get your strength in unusual places," said Leeza.
One of Leeza's role models is Maria Shriver, who dealt with own father's Alzheimer's disease, so it is natural that Leeza has worked with Shriver on programs to educate people about caregiving.
"Be supportive of individual choice, and don't marginalize people with Alzheimer's. In fact, don't be dismissive of older adults," contended Leeza.
She concluded that we need to compel people to turn up the heat on the urgency of treating Alzheimer's and all neurological illnesses. She hopes that with earlier diagnosis and onset, more people will recognize the impact of Alzheimer's and it will tell a more relatable story to Americans of all ages.
Aging Info Radio broadcasts each Saturday morning from 6-7 am on AM 560WIND. The coverage area for AM 560WIND is all of Chicagoland, southern Wisconsin, N.W. Indiana and S.W. Michigan with the potential to reach nearly half a million listeners and millions more by the way of www.560WIND.com where the show streams live. The show's philosophy is that boomers and seniors are aging, but not growing older. For more information, visit www.aginginforadio.com.