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Leeza’s 6 Tips for Family Caregivers

Leeza Gibbons with her father

Don’t neglect your own health when taking care of others.

Caregiving is a role that takes many people by surprise. The financial and emotional toll of assisting a sick or aging loved one seems to rise every year, according to several studies. Now, an estimated 90 million Americans provide unpaid caregiving that covers a variety of ailments from cancer and Alzheimer’s to stroke, and much more.Author and talk show host Leeza Gibbons has firsthand experience with taking care of a loved one. She has been a family caregiver for more than a decade. Through her work with Leeza’s Care Connection, she’s both served and learned from thousands of caregivers from around the country. November is National Family Caregivers Month, which gives us the opportunity to recognize and honor the important role family members, friends and neighbors play in caring for loved ones. This year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock,” and we had the chance to ask Leeza to share wisdom for caregivers juggling the tasks of caring for their loved ones as well as for themselves.

Here are her six most important pieces of advice for caregivers, whether they are just starting out or already in the thick of it.

1. Prepare for your role as caregiver, and own it.

“The 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.”

Caring Hands

2. Bolster your support network then divide and conquer.

“You’re going to need people. This is not a path you can walk alone. My siblings and I had a caregiving plan for my mom, with Alzheimer’s, and again with my dad when he had bypass surgery after his heart attack. We looked at what we each could contribute: Who is the best organizer? Who can contribute the most financially? Who can physically be there to communicate with the doctors? We all took our roles and stayed in our lanes.”

3. Leverage 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. I feel much more comfortable knowing my Dad has one, which I 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.”

4. Connect with other caregivers, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Leeza’s Care Connection links people to other caregivers who have walked the path before. With strategies, tools and tips, our 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. Better care for caregivers means better outcomes for care receivers. Our focus is to care for the caregivers.”

5. Locate your resilience and strive for optimism.

“One thing I’ve noticed about those who handle their caregiving role well is how quickly they let go of failures. People who are optimistic about caregiving aren’t in denial. They can rebound and recover better. Those who are tied to their resilience are the ones who get through the challenges more affectively. There 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. We have lots of programs on our website that help people connect with their resilience. The ability to focus on what’s left, instead of what’s lost is a key component to being successful.”

6. 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. We learned so much about ourselves and were able to face a lot of uncertainty with hope and grace.”

Brooke Edwards is a writer in Little Rock, Arkansas. She and her husband raise two daughters and have twice as many pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping. Brooke enjoys Harry Potter and camping and is fresh on the Minecraft scene.

Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

eCareDiary spoke to Leeza Gibbons, Emmy-award winner, social entrepreneur and founder of Leeza’s Care Connection about tips to tackle caregiver burnout and creating a balance between family, work and caregiving.



ACTION for Unity: Lunch & Learn with Leeza’s Care Connection

We must educate our students to participate.  For students to be most effective in civic engagement, they must first learn about the issues from the experts. Teens can then plan effectively to address real-world problems facing our communities.  ACTION uses our combined lunch and homeroom hour for Lunch & Learn sessions with career mentors.  We tried this “power hour” model last year when Karen Jackson (Clemson Extension) and Chanda Cooper (Richland Soil & Water Conservation District – SC) worked with our Unified Partners Team to plan and design a bioswale for our outdoor classroom.  The benefits of Lunch & Learns are four-fold. First, you widen the student’s knowledge-base by bringing in experts from various fields. Secondly, you identify the problem and decide on a plan of action. Thirdly, you build relationships among the team during planning meetings which allow for active participation. The idea is for the mentor to work alongside the teens during these sessions of inquiry and discovery. Finally, the knowledge and unity developed among team members results in a deeper level of commitment and a more effective project outcome.

This year, we will incorporate lunch sessions with all ACTION Teams. Kena Dill, the program director of Leeza’s Care Connection, spoke at a Lunch and Learn for our ACTION Care Team yesterday. Ms. Dill shared about the challenges that primary caretakers face when caring for family members suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other health issues such as Parkinson’s. Students connected their own experiences to the facts they were learning. When Kena shared her personal story, students developed deeper empathy.  After a mini-lesson, students broke into groups to brainstorm. Kena and I asked the teens to write down ways in which they could use their talents to support caretakers. One group planned ways to support the caretakers during the holidays recognizing that this can be a more stressful time for families. Another group thought of ways to use their music talents to support the caretakers. Music therapy is an evidence-based practice.  A third group had a great idea about creating photo stories using the caretakers’ old family pictures. The students will use technology to add music and/or narration to accompany the slideshow. We had so much fun planning outreach activities to support our local caretakers. I love our students’ passion and dedication towards civic engagement.

Lunch & Learn sessions provide a time for students to search for solutions with the aid of an expert. Our teens are not given the answer, but the opportunity to explore possibilities before deciding on a course of action. One student left yesterday’s planning session and told her science teacher, “I am really excited, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. It seems like a lot.”  Her teacher shared that he also feels this way when first faced with a problem. You can’t do it all at once. It is important to take things one step at a time. Lunch & Learns are the first step in the team process.


by Lori Wenzinger, M. Ed (original post here)


10 Tips for Family Caregivers

  1. Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
  2. Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
  3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
  4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  5. Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
  6. Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help when you need it.
  7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
  8. Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
  9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
  10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

The Legacy of Life

How TV and radio host Leeza Gibbons is using her experience as a caregiver to help others

Leeza Gibbons is a 60-year-old Emmy®-winning host and New York Times best-selling author, but her roles as an entrepreneur, mother, wife and caregiver are where she’s made her greatest contributions in life. Gibbons’ agility and constant motivation to keep pushing forward helped her conquer the challenges she faced after becoming a caregiver for her mother, who battled Alzheimer’s for nine years. The situation ultimately led her to advocate for those affected by the disease as a tribute and lasting legacy to her mom’s life.

A Mother’s Care

Gibbons grew up in Hartsville, a small town in South Carolina, along with her sister and brother who loved spending time outside. As a young girl, life for Gibbons consisted of simple southern charm and values: cleaning your plate and respecting your parents.

“When I grew up, it was: yes ma’am, no sir, mind your manners and do your chores,” recalls Gibbons. “Everyone looked out for each other. I thought it was perfect then. It feels even more perfect now.”

From a young age, Gibbons was a take-charge kind of girl and knew she wanted to be a storyteller. She aspired to travel around the world filming documentaries, while her mother never failed to help her discover her strengths.

“I have my mother to thank for that,” Gibbons says of her talent for telling stories. “When I couldn’t figure out what to perform at the school talent show in the sixth grade, my mother suggested that I deliver a well-told story. Mom was great like that — always helping me find the best parts of myself.”

 A New Normal

Gibbons’ mother, Jean, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 62. Even though her grandmother also suffered from the debilitating neurological disorder, it was extremely hard for Gibbons to reconcile that the disease was now hitting even closer.

“All I wanted to do initially was protect my mother and spare her the pain and confusion that I knew was coming,” Gibbons says. “This disease doesn’t wait for you to get your head and your heart ready, though. It doesn’t allow you to adjust to the anxiety and depression, the frustration and feelings of emptiness that creep into your new, unwelcome world. It just abruptly breaks into your life.”

Although Gibbons did not want to face the fact that her mother — a strong, active and sharp woman — was fading before her eyes, she took it upon herself to learn all she could about Alzheimer’s.

“I went into therapy,” Gibbons says. “I read everything I could get my hands on, and then I got educated. I went to seminars and went through certification programs. I watched DVDs and downloads from experts and authorities. All of it helped, but nothing helped more than talking with real caregivers who had walked the path before me.”

Becoming the primary caregiver for her mother meant that Gibbons had to come to terms with living an unbalanced life. Her experience with her mother taught Gibbons that trying to do things perfectly, crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s, makes for a stressful life.

“Now I don’t believe in balance,” she says. “I think balance is bogus! When I was caring for Mom, I hadn’t yet come to that conclusion. I finally just had to realize that all I could do was my best, but I know my job suffered a lot. Even when I was at work, I couldn’t focus and had bouts of anger or depression.”

It was this experience that led Gibbons to become entrenched in the world of caregiving education and advocacy.

She eventually established free community support centers for family caregivers trying to answer the question “now what?” when someone they love gets diagnosed with a chronic illness or disease. This haven offers an outlet for information and help, something Gibbons says is second nature to her.

“They always say that you teach what you need to learn,” she shares. “For me, helping other families understand how to navigate the realities and challenges of aging parents came naturally. It was my own adjustment to my ‘new normal’ that gave me the inspiration.”

Gibbons says the simple thing for families to do when dealing with Alzheimer’s is to




She believes that connecting to your faith and to others who have walked the path before you can be enormously comforting for those going through the challenge of being a caregiver.

Taking Care of Yourself

Caring for an aging parent can take a toll on those affected by the circumstances. Oftentimes the health of the caregiver suffers under the weight of the stress and pressure to provide the best care possible.

“We have to identify and then take time for our sanity sanctuaries (happy places) in life,” Gibbons explains. “It’s imperative that we nourish ourselves because it’s a stressing, depressing, depleting marathon.”

Gibbons imparts that other caregivers need to “stop achieving and start receiving” to relieve some of the stress and anxiety associated with taking care of an aging loved one. She advises considering ways to unload some of the responsibility of caregiving.

“Let others help you,” she advises. “Take advantage of the technology that’s out there. For example, we got my dad a medical alert device. After Mom died, he’s been living alone, and I was worried. That’s a lot of peace of mind!”

Becoming a caregiver required Gibbons to be very candid with her children about issues such as death. She realizes that openness helps tremendously when going through any stressful, life-changing time.

“They are conversant about it, and the topic [of death] is not stigmatized in our home,” Gibbons says. “I hope I have modeled patience and empathy for them and given them a sense of urgency for living your life out loud and on purpose.”

Juggling caregiver responsibilities with her personal needs, Gibbons developed different ways to manage her stress and health, incorporating activities such as meditation, Pilates and yoga, taking walks, eating healthy, and taking detox baths with Epsom salt and lavender.

Gibbons says the simple thing for families to do when dealing with Alzheimer’s is to breathe, believe and receive. She believes that connecting to your faith and to others who have walked the path before you can be enormously comforting for those going through the challenge of being a caregiver.

Fulfilling Destiny

Because Gibbons had promised her mother that she would tell her story “and make it count,” she established the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in 2002.

“It made me feel empowered,” Gibbons says. “Grateful. Humbled to be of service to a community of people who are the strongest, yet most misunderstood, I’ve ever met.”

She believes that opening its signature program, Leeza’s Care Connection support centers, was in her destiny. Her father has served as a role model for her throughout this journey and is a frequent volunteer at the center.

“Having my dad offering his wisdom and humor means everything to me,” Gibbons shares. “He has always been such an optimistic role model. I believe in trying hard and caring more, and this means I got a shot to do both.”

While she’s achieved a lot through her professional career, it’s her ability to offer education and resources for those in need that gives her a measure of success.

“I feel successful whenever I am able to offer my gifts and talents with a healthy mind, body and spirit, through love and gratitude,” Gibbons says. “If I feel good about what I’m doing and I’m emotionally and physically strong, that’s big-time success! My optics on my success are clearer than ever before, allowing me to drink it up; gratitude is the foundation of success. My husband and I must say it half dozen times a day: ‘We have the best life.’ Amen to that.”

Jodi Marsh is the executive editor for Healthy Living Made Simple.

Leeza’s Dare2Care Fair

Midlands native and TV journalist Leeza Gibbons was back in the Capital City over the weekend to host her first ever Dare2Care Fair and Reception. It’s all part of her Leeza’s Care Connection Foundation. The goal of the free fair and health expo on Saturday was to empower parents and grandparents with ways to be smarter, safer and live better, healthier lives.

The free fair was held at the Columbia Convention Center. There was also a reception and auction, that included dares from local and Hollywood celebrities.











Leeza Gibbons raises funds for caretakers at Midlands event

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) –On Saturday, hundreds of locals came together with local and national celebrities alike, all in honor of those in need.

The “Dare To Care” event was hosted by Leeza Gibbons to raise funds, awareness and support for her organization, Leeza’s Care Connection.

The charity aims to assist caretakers caring for those with chronic illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s.

The day kicked off with a family fun fair for adults and children alike to enjoy, followed by a health and wellness expo. The evening commenced with silent auctions, complete with the “Take the Dare Live” auction, where celebrities gave out dares for participants to do for the highest bidders.

Other displays included the Thigh Master Showdown with Suzanne Sommers and Barry Manilow singing “Copacabana”.

Gibbons, best known as correspondent and co-host of Entertainment Tonight, says it’s all in the name of helping those who spend their lives helping others.

“We help connect them to services,” said Gibbons. “We help connect them to their strength. We help connect them to what they need to know to survive it for the long haul. So, we’re there for the husbands and the wives and the sons and daughters, the family caregivers, the care partners…who have a very tough journey to walk.”

Leeza Gibbons’ Dare2Care charity event comes to Columbia Saturday

The Dare2Care Reception and Live Auction promotes a culture of Kindness in Columbia. It’s planned for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Proceeds go to help Columbia-based Leeza’s Care Connection of the Midlands.

Leeza Gibbons is an Emmy Award winner and health advocate. Her Dare2Care event with a Gratitude Event and Take the Dare live auction is on Saturday from 5 p.m. til-8 p.m. at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln St, Columbia.

Photo: Leeza with her son, Nate, planting a memory garden at the opening of Leeza’s Care Connection. 

The event will showcase what Gibbons calls a “Kindness Mosaic,” a structure of multi-colored blocks featuring first person stories of the ways caring matters in the Midlands. Against that backdrop, local and national celebrities will challenge the audience to participate in live dares to raise funds to Leeza’s Care Connection; a free resource for those who are caring for a family member with a chronic illness or disease, such as Alzheimer’s or cancer.

“Dare2Care is not just a fundraiser. It celebrates our commitment to our community and challenges each of us to care enough to make it stronger” said Leeza Gibbons.

The Dare2Care event begins with a free family fun fair and a health and wellness expo starting at 11 a.m. before the paid event and the Take the Dare challenge which includes a silent auction with exciting items up for bid online now at Some prizes auctioned off to guests include: jewelry, trips, spa packages, lunch with a coach, and mystery wine and dine packages.

Cost for the event is $60 per person in advance and $70 per person at the door. The ticket price includes entry to the event, one drink ticket, and food. The night will include dare appearances by celebrities like Jay Leno, Suzanne Somers, Craig Melvin, Barry Manilow and others.
“Our Take the Dare Live Auction gives celebrities a platform to challenge our audience to put their hearts on the line by engaging in a dare for the highest bidder. Singing Copacabana for Barry Manilow or doing a Thigh Master Showdown for Suzanne Somers, it’s all in the name of charity” said Leeza Gibbons.

Tickets for the event and auction items are available for purchase at Additional information can be found at and

About Leeza’s Care Connection

Leeza’s Care Connection is a free community resource center supporting seniors, baby boomers, and family members of all ages and caregiving backgrounds. The energetic, uplifting, caregiver-focused center is a one-stop-shop-a place to get educated, find resources, gain confidence, and connect with others on a similar journey, so no one has to feel they are walking this path alone.

Celebs to join TV star Leeza Gibbons for Columbia Fundraiser


Imagine being dared by Barry Manilow to sing “Copacabana,” by Suzanne Somers to work out beside her, or by the Chippendales to mimic their dance moves – all on stage in front of a crowd.

Those are a few of the dares that will be issued at the Take the Dare Live Auction, part of a fundraising extravaganza Saturday for Leeza’s Care Connection in Irmo.

Irmo native Leeza Gibbons is hosting the event, which include celebrity appearances – by video and in person – along with a Dare2Care Fair, a Health and Wellness Expo, a silent auction, a Kindness Movement dinner and the Take the Dare Live Auction.

“Dare2Care is more than a fundraiser; it is a movement that underscores our belief that there is strength in kindness and caring,” Gibbons said.

The event comes about a month after a large oak fell during a thunderstorm on the Leeza’s Care Connection house, in the former Irmo home of Michael J. Mungo at 201 St. Andrews Road. The tree caused heavy damage to the roof and forced the organization to temporarily move across the street to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church while repairs are under way.

Much will be going on during the Saturday event at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, all designed to promote kindness, understanding, and fun while raising money for Leeza’s Care Connection.

The day begins with the four-hour free fair and health and wellness expo at 11 a.m., followed by the dinner and auctions from 5-8 p.m.

The fair will have food, games and activities for all ages, and is designed to have a nostalgic, throwback feel. “We wanted to make sure we were inclusive, that we reached across generations,” Gibbons said.

And she wanted it to be a gift to the community.

“Our thought was, let’s give something to get something,” Gibbons said. “We’re here for the long term. We want people to know we’re not always going to have our hand out. We’re here to offer our help.”

Gibbons created The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in 2002 as a promise to her mother to “tell her story and make it count” after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Leeza’s Care Connection, the signature program of The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, is a place for caregivers to go for support, to ask questions, find resources and connect with other caregivers.

When it came time to raise money, Gibbons wanted to do something that also positively impacted the community, and she knew that offering some “celebrity sizzle” would add interest.

“The whole idea is, how do you challenge someone to step up to the plate and show they care?” she said.

One visual way is by putting together a colorful wall that highlights acts of kindness in the Midlands.

“The idea is to create a movement of kindness,” said Marti Colucci, managing director of Leeza’s Care Connection. “We want it to be contagious in our community.”

Called the Mosaic of Kindness, the wall is a colorful way to remind everyone that the smallest acts of compassion make a difference. And when you add them all together, it can redefine a community.

At the event, four young people will introduce the wall and put the final brick in the mosaic. Folks from throughout the community have written simple acts of kindness on each brick like “drove neighbor to a doctor’s appointment,” “anonymously paid for someone’s dinner,” and “gave money to a young family.”

“Our way to get the conversation started is to dare our friends and neighbors to commit an act of kindness,” Gibbons said. “At the event, we will unveil more stories on how we have dared to care in the Midlands. That’s how we connect to each other.”

Gibbons wants the event to feel like friends are gathered for dinner and a game of charades. She will be there, along with local celebrities including Dawn Staley, Frank Martin, Ray Tanner, Joe Pinner, Tony Clyburn and Mary King. Several television stars will join Manilow and Somers via video, including Gary Sinise, Maria Shriver, Marie Osmond, Mario Lopez, Geraldo Rivera, Sharon Osbourne, Nancy O’Dell and Craig Melvin.

These celebrities will be “daring” audience members to do certain feats to show they care. The dares will range from the fun and silly, such as Lopez challenging folks to don boxing gloves, to the serious, such as Sinise challenging folks to stand up and show support and respect for veterans and Shriver charging everyone to work toward creating a world without Alzheimer’s.

Martin and Tanner will square off against each other, but in what is a secret to be revealed Saturday.

By the end of the day, Gibbons hopes folks will be reminded of what matters most, as they have fun and help raise money so Leeza’s Care Connection can continue its mission.

“We’ve tried to encompass everyone, from kids to seniors,” Colucci said. “We wanted to have it somewhere convenient, and wanted to do something that appeals to everyone. A whole family affair.”

2017 © The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation