Leeza Gibbons — Tips for New Caregivers

Leeza Gibbons (from Twitter)

“Alzheimer’s Caregivers are Heroes.” – Leeza Gibbons

Leeza Gibbons is a leading TV talk show host, entertainment reporter, and best-selling author. She also has another role — as a caregiver and founder of a non-profit to help others caring for loved ones. Leeza cared for both her mother and father during serious illnesses, and now as a promise to her mother, she shares advice for other family caregivers and explains how research and resources can help.

Leeza’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 63. After a battle with the disease, she passed away ten years later. Early on, Leeza promised her mother that she would help other caregivers who are caring for loved ones with dementia. So, when her mother was struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, Leeza created what she wished she and her family had. Leeza took her earnings as the winner of the TV show, Celebrity Apprentice, and used them to open Leeza’s Care Connection. Through her work with Leeza’s Care Connection, she’s both served and learned from thousands of caregivers from around the country.

Over the years, Leeza’s goal has been to empower others with strength, confidence, and pride. Her four best-selling books all underscore her philosophy of “work hard; care more.” She lives a life of gratitude with her husband, best-selling author Steven Fenton, and their rescue pup, Biggie. She has three children — daughter, Leksy, and sons, Troy and Nate.

How Leeza’s Care Connection Helps Caregivers

Leeza’s Care Connection is a place for caregivers to go for support, to ask questions, to find resources, and to connect with other caregivers when a health crisis hits their family. Leeza hopes to help caregivers develop new skills to help them handle the changes and demands of their new life, allowing them to become stronger and more resilient, and to build a support network and family who understands both the burdens and blessings of caregiving. According to Leeza, “(c)aregivers are often depressed, stressed, and depleted, which can lead to burnout…often causing stress-related disorders that can take up to ten years off the life of the caregiver. We pledge to change that.”

Leeza offers the following tips for new caregivers:

  1. Prepare for your role as caregiver, and own it: According to Leeza, “(t)he first thing to recognize is, odds are, you will be caring for someone, or someone will be caring for you at some point. Now is the time to begin having conversations with your loved ones. Caregiving is not anyone’s definition of happily ever after. But when it happens, the sooner you can claim it and name it, the better you’re going to be able to navigate this path.”
  2. Caregiving is not a solo sport – build your support network then divide and conquer: Families can face exhaustion, depletion, frustration, anger, and resentment if they try to go it alone. You are going to need people to help. Leeza and her siblings had a caregiving plan for her mom and again with her dad when he had bypass surgery after his heart attack. They looked at what each of them could contribute: Who is the best organizer? Who can contribute the most financially? Who can physically be there to communicate with the doctors? They all took on roles and stayed in their lanes. If you delegate roles to family members and still need assistance, learn to ask for help from others outside the family and/or seek respite. Accept that sometimes “good enough” is the goal. Tomorrow is a new day to try again.
  1. Use Technology: These days, technology offers a big advantage, especially for new caregivers. There are many free apps to help manage your time, start family calendars, and help you meditate, breathe, and protect your mental health. Medical alert services are great at helping seniors embrace their independence and giving caregivers peace of mind, knowing that help is always available. Leeza always felt much more comfortable knowing that her dad had one, which she talked him into getting after learning he had a cardiac risk. He was wearing it two years later when he had a heart attack, and it saved his life. For more details on medical alerts, please see my recent article on medical technology.
  1. Connect with other caregivers: Leeza’s Care Connection links new caregivers to more experienced caregivers. With strategies, tools, and tips gleaned from those who have been there, the goal is to help caregivers be more confident and competent and to realize they don’t have to let go of themselves to care for someone they love.
  2. Let go of failures and be resilient: According to Leeza, “(p)eople who are optimistic about caregiving can rebound and recover better. Those who are tied to their resilience are the ones who get through the challenges more effectively. There are many ways for us to reclaim ourselves on the caregiving journey — and it’s different for every person — whether it’s taking a yoga class, exploring mindfulness, making art, or participating in dance or humor therapy.” The ability to focus on what’s left, instead of what’s lost, is a key component to being successful.
  3. Find the joy: “I’ve seen many families learn they have great capacity to accept tremendous change and still come out on the other side with happiness, joy, and a new definition of what it means to be a family. The people who survive hard times and thrive through their caregiving experience become proud, as I have been and as my family has become.” Leeza said. “We learned so much about ourselves and were able to face a lot of uncertainty with hope and grace.”
  4. Rest and Recharge: A new study finds that the vast majority of dementia caregivers are suffering from sleep deprivation. Without good sleep, getting through the day is a challenge — especially in stressful times. Sleep disruption is also a factor in predicting caregivers’ stress. And recent research from New Edith Cowan University in Australia has found that 94% of those surveyed who are caring for a loved one with dementia are sleep-deprived. So, taking better care of yourself and getting a good night’s sleep will translate to better outcomes for your loved one.

Be sure to rest, recharge, and take care of yourself first with no guilt or apologies. Leeza takes care of herself by focusing on her nutrition, prioritizing her sleep, and managing her stress.

Leeza Offers Helpful Resources for Caregivers

Leeza’s Care Connection was designed for caregivers at all stages. She offers the following resources to help:

Be sure to check out her virtual programs and support groups, as well!

Summing Up the Most Important Lessons Leeza Has Learned

Throughout her journey, one of the most important things Leeza has learned is to be present. She learned that no matter how much energy you have, how smart you think we are, or how much money you may have, you can’t always fix everything. Sometimes there is grace in acceptance, and there are tremendous lessons in knowing your limits. She feels that we are stronger because of our limitations and our vulnerabilities are the things that make us human and that’s how we connect. For more details about Leeza’s work and for tools, tips, and resources, please visit Leeza’s Care Connection.

Are You a Family Caregiver?

If you are a caregiver for a loved one, it is wise to plan in advance. Nursing homes in the DC Metro area cost $12,000-$14,000 a month, which is catastrophic for most families. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please call us anytime to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797
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