November 30, 2010
Posted: 04:49 PM ET
Leeza Gibbons is an Emmy-winning TV/radio personality, long-time Alzheimer’s disease caregiving advocate and co-author of the caregiving book “Take Your Oxygen First.” Her commentary is an LKL Web Exclusive.
Thank God for outspoken advocates like former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is using her considerable clout to underscore the urgent situation we face in our country due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Back in October, she authored a striking editorial in The New York Times on the growing epidemic of AD in our aging population. Because of the widespread impact of AD, a devastating illness that robs people of their ability to relate, remember and care for themselves, O’Connor put out a passionate directive, asking that the United States “deploy sufficient resources, scientific talent and problem-solving technologies to save our collective future.”
YES! It’s time we all “own” this disease and recognize that we must push harder for solutions and support. Having lost my mother and grandmother to the thief of Alzheimer’s, I fully support Ms. O’Connor’s timely goal.
Today I put out a similar call to action and invite you to join a new campaign - “Stand Together for AD: Strength and Support for Alzheimer’s.” The campaign was created with support from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and is focused specifically on helping the caregivers of patients with AD – many of whom are stressed and depressed, isolated and afraid . Because of the overwhelming pressure of caring for someone with memory loss, caregivers are at risk for a host of health problems. It is not a path caregivers should walk alone, and surviving often depends on knowing your limits and asking for help.
I know firsthand that the caregiving experience can feel like an emotional, spiritual and physical assault – a journey that many people, unfortunately, face alone. That’s why it is so important to take several key steps if you are one of the many people undertaking this difficult, but brave job. Everyone knows CPR, but for caregivers I recommend BBR: Breathe, Believe, Receive.
• Breathe: You can’t take good care of others unless you take care of yourself. Caregivers sometimes need to slow down and prioritize their own needs in order to be in the best possible condition to care for their loved ones. We say “Take Your Oxygen First,” in fact, we wrote the book on it!
• Believe: Know that you can do it – and that your efforts will be enough. Believe that, while also challenged, others have achieved this before you, get strength from them and know that what you learn on your journey will also lift others.
• Receive: Everyone has limits, and there will be days when you feel that you just can’t do it anymore. That’s why it is so important to be surrounded by an encouraging community and explore the resources around you. Sometimes you need to stop achieving and start receiving.
Taking time to breathe, believe and receive is a great start to accepting strength and support. Caregivers can find even more at www.AlzheimersDisease.com, including tips and advice on coping and staying healthy, access to a new caregiver support program, and stories from fellow Alzheimer’s caregivers.
Larry has been a good friend and supporter of our message. He was kind enough to write the foreword for my book, “Take Your Oxygen First,” and many of those he serves through his cardiac foundation understand the caregiver struggle firsthand. Through his numerous interviews with leaders and advocates through the years, he has always focused the spotlight on ways to make it better. I thank him for the opportunity to share this message and introduce the new campaign.
I hope you will consider yourself an ambassador for “Stand Together for AD.” Every time we offer our understanding, we begin to change the reality for a caregiver who might be exhausted and depleted. We can help build an open and knowledgeable community that provides a way for all of us to offer strength and support. I believe caregivers are a national treasure. They deserve to be recognized as the heroes they are and to know that we can all march in lock step toward caring for the people who care for people. It makes life just a little bit easier each day for our noble and indispensable Alzheimer’s caregivers.
August 25, 2009
Posted: 11:24 AM ET
By Leeza Gibbons, TV/Radio Personality and Producer
Chances are if you are a family caregiver, you either don’t know it, don’t want to know it or you are just so overwhelmed that you could crack at the very suggestion that you should “Take Your Oxygen First”. Yet, there are 50 million husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters out there taking care of a family member or loved one. And here’s the deal….they are dying! We call them the family first responders...just like the heroes we see running into a burning building or toward the scene of an accident when all others are running away, these courageous caregivers show up when families are falling apart, emotions are frayed and finances are unraveling. It’s a noble thing, no doubt…in fact, I think it is one of the single most powerfully defining moments in our lives as human beings, BUT there is a type of martyrdom that is rampant in this group and falling on the sword seems way easier than pulling out a figurative oxygen mask to begin to breathe deeply.
That’s why we wrote our book, "Take Your Oxygen First," to remind caregivers of those instructions the flight attendants give on an airplane. Just like on a plane, in a health crisis, you only have a short time in which to take action. If you put your mask on first, you will be alive, conscious and have enough sanity and energy to help someone else. If you don’t, chances are the two of you will be at risk. I know at first it’s counter-intuitive to think of yourself when someone you love is suffering. The reality is, though, if you don’t nourish yourself; mind, body, soul and spirit, your loved one and you will decline faster.
It’s called compassion fatigue, and my co-authors, friends and colleges Dr. Jamie Huysman and Dr. Rosemary Laird know it well. As the Executive Director of the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, Dr. Jamie is a psychologist who gives that perspective in our book. Dr. Laird is an MD, a gerontologist, and she gives the medical side of being oxygen–deprived. My Dad, brother, sister, sister-in-law and my kids and I give the family perspective of what is at risk when we don’t take care of ourselves while helping someone we love navigate through a chronic illness or disease.
Leeza Gibbons is a TV/Radio Personality and Producer and Co-founder of the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place, Her commentary is a LARRY KING LIVE Web exclusive and her thoughts are her own.
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