For more than 25 years, Leeza Gibbons has reported the latest in entertainment, music, and Hollywood. Recently she’s taken on a more important mission: helping caregivers understand the ups and downs of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The mother-of-three has teamed up with Caring.com to create an important online video series entitled Caregiver Confessions, which provides a safe place to confess, as well as practical and actionable tips for caregivers.
Leeza opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her own caregiver confessions, and her passion for providing support to “anyone who walks that difficult path of being a family member whose life story has been rewritten by disease or illness.” Read on about Leeza’s own struggles with caregiver burnout and how she turned her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease into a positive: “I really want to help people get real and get ready for whatever comes next.”
CBS: Please tell us about your partnership with Caring.com and the online video series entitled Caregiver Confessions. What is it all about?
LG: “Almost all caregivers feel they are ‘doing it wrong’ …that they don’t have enough patience, they are angry, resentful and sad. At least that’s how I felt when my mother was disappearing memory by memory because of Alzheimer’s disease. Caregiver Confessions on Caring.com gives us a chance to talk about all the universal aspects of caring for someone you love who is sick or dying in a video diary format.
I really want to help people get real and get ready for whatever comes next. That’s why I created Leeza’s Place, my non-profit support centers across the country offering free education, empowerment and energy for caregivers.
Caring.com is the perfect match for my philosophy that ‘when you know better, you do better.’ ”
CBS: Why did you become involved with this cause? Do you have experience being a caregiver?
LG: “I love the information at Caring.com. It’s such a rich resource of support and answers. From emotional challenges to financial struggles; advice from experts and those who have lived through it. I wish I had a place like this when my mom and grandmother were battling Alzheimer’s disease. So often, crisis hits and burnout occurs in the middle of the night. It’s comforting to know that Caring.com is there 24/7 with answers, support, advice and guidance.”
CBS: Is Caregiver Confessions only for families living with Alzheimer’s disease?
LG: “No, our information and insight is useful for anyone who walks that difficult path of being a family member whose life story has been rewritten by disease or illness.”
CBS: Do you have a caregiver confession?
LG: “Oh, yes! I have many. I snapped at my mom and lost my patience, I isolated myself from my friends, I got depressed and depleted. I share all of this and more as part of our series. Once we realize we are not alone, we can nourish ourselves – mind, body, and soul – so we can be strong enough to give what is required. I wrote a book for caregivers called Take Your Oxygen First to remind people that the best way to love your diagnosed family member is to take care of yourself first!”
How old are your son Troy and Nathan and your daughter Lexi? What are they into?
LG: “My daughter Lexi is 22 and about to graduate from college as a dancer/choreographer. My middle son, Troy, is 19 and a college sophomore studying film editing and Nathan is a 14-year-old who is the one most likely to tell a joke and get applause!
They are such individuals and are wildly different, but at their core they have the same, loving, compassionate heart; molded in part by watching their grandmom (‘JG’) struggle with the thief of memories. We lost my mom three years ago, but her lasting legacy is Leeza’s Place and she lives on in the hearts of my children.”
CBS: If you experienced any caregiver burnout, did if affect your relationship with your children?
LG: “My kids had only known me to be a ‘rock.’ You know, always in charge and able to handle anything. When mom got sick, I came face to face with my vulnerabilities and they saw me fall apart. In many ways, it was the best thing that could have ever happened because it gave them permission not to have to be ‘perfect’ either.
For years I was over-busy, whirling around in search of something, anything that would help my mom. I missed a lot of being present for my kids. When I was thinking about staring our foundation, I asked the children what they thought. I told them this was a forever thing that was likely to take a lot from them, but would likely give them more. The three of them didn’t hesitate a moment and voted that, as a family, we honor my mother’s wish to take her diagnosis and use it to help others.”
CBS: Tell us about your makeup and hair extensions!
LG: “We were the first on the scene of mineral make up years ago when we created Sheer Cover (with Guthy-Renker). Almost a decade later, we are still going strong offering a complete line of foundation and color promising ‘complexion perfection’ in seconds. In fact, the success of Sheer Cover, is one of the reasons I was able to leave my TV career for a while to start a nonprofit.
I LOVE my Sheer Cover; it’s the only makeup I wear because it has natural sun protection as well as anti-aging properties and it is totally goof-proof! I sell it on TV, online and as part of the Leeza Gibbons Celebrity Beauty Hour on HSN.
That’s where you’ll find my Perfect Style hair extensions! I have an entire wardrobe of these…it’s totally changed my experience with hair! They are so blendable, so natural looking and so easy to wear, that I have them in about 5 days a week. It saves my own hair from excessive heat and styling. The great thing about Perfect Style is that (unlike most synthetic hair) you can use your hot tools and blow dryer to style it! Once you have the shape, it STAYS until you add more heat. How great is that? If you’re in the rain, humidity, whatever, your style will never let you down. That’s better than natural hair!”
CBS: What are your upcoming holiday plans?
LG: “Every Thanksgiving we put together a backpack of champagne and sparkling cider and head up the canyon for our annual ‘Gratitude Hike.’ We each write letters to each other and when we reach the top, we read them aloud. The letters express the things we are thankful for as well as our wishes and dreams, struggles and challenges.
For Christmas, we always do a family pajama photo that is our holiday card. Through the years (19 so far) we have worn ducky pj’s, cowboys, kissy lips, plaids, paisleys and more! It’s always fun, and kind of embarrassing.”