November is National Family Caregivers month and in the U.S., there are over 65 million family caregivers currently taking care of a loved one going through a crisis. In honor of caregivers around the world, LA’s the Place interviewed talk show host Leeza Gibbons, who has created the non-profit organization Leeza’s Place. Leeza’s Place is a place for family caregivers to get educated, empowered and energized.
Gibbons knows how hopeless, exhausted and overwhelmed a caregiver can feel. She has been there personally and walked the talk. Nearly a decade ago, she stepped out of the spotlight to take care of her mother afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Her mother, Gloria Jean Gibbons, died in May 2008, at the age of 72, nine years after her diagnosis. As a promise to her mother to “tell her story and make it count” after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and her family’s subsequent caregiving challenges, Gibbons created The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in 2002.
But she’s not just about raising awareness. Leeza is a woman of action. In a few short years, her group has opened numerous Leeza’s Places across the country — in California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida.
Leeza’s Place, the signature program of the Foundation, opened its first doors in 2003 as the manifestation of what Leeza “wished we had when we were going through this journey.” Leeza’s Place is home to all types of family caregivers.
Leeza’s Place offers these resources:
Education – Caregiving doesn’t come with an instruction manual. That’s why they offer extensive Alzheimer’s information and free e-learning workshops. They also have a Virtual Library with more than 5,000 books, journals, cassettes, videos and CD-ROMs to borrow.
Support – They help connect caregivers with professionals and one another. Their 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is staffed around the clock to offer information and assistance, and ALZConnected™, their online caregiver community, is a great place to find and share support on a national and local level.
Tools – From a Care Team Calendar that helps organize family and friends to Alzheimer’s Navigator™, an online assessment tool that creates customized Alzheimer’s action plans, the organization has a variety of tools to help caregivers cope.
In addition to offering tools and education, Leeza’s Care Connection at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center has launched. Leeza’s Care Connection, located in Burbank, CA, is a place where caregivers can come together to become stronger, more resilient and grounded, developing a set of skills that help them handle their new life of change. Leeza’s Care Connection has been a natural extension of the overall vision of the foundation.
Being a celebrity herself, she also brings awareness to other celebrities working to cure and aid those with Alzheimer’s disease. On her My Generation show, she recently interviewed Maria Shriver. Both women have more in common than working in television: They have parents who had Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s has no cure. It devastates families and has the potential to bankrupt the nation’s health care system. But Shriver, Gibbons and celebrities like legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, are shining new light on this dark disease — and the future is hopeful.
People with Alzheimer’s Disease or who know someone with the disease can also go to www.AlzheimersDisease.com for support, information and answers.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, visit leezasplace.org for help and support.
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Written by Lanee Neil