It’s time to “get real and get ready” about Alzheimer’s disease, says Leeza Gibbons, former "Entertainment Tonight" host and current co-host of a new syndicated newsmagazine, "America Now." “Alzheimer’s is not a disease that will wait for you so it’s better to have conversations about it earlier rather than later in the process.”
Submit questions to Leeza and Alzheimer’s expert Dr. James Galvin, at http://alzheimersdisease.com for Conversations in Caregiving, a live 90-minute webcast at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on September 20, 2011—the eve of Alzheimer’s Action Day.
Gibbons has been an Alzheimer’s care activist since her mother, Gloria Jean Dyson Gibbons, was diagnosed with the disease when she was only 63; she passed away at age 72. The author of "Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss" is passionate about giving those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers a stronger voice.
“I wish I had been able to be comfortable asking for help and to realize I was part of much bigger community instead of feeling so alone when our family was going through this,” says Gibbons. “People get overwhelmed and isolate; depression is such a common companion to both the caregiver and diagnosed individual.”
“It’s an adjustment of identity,” points out Gibbons. Whereas caregivers may have been on career tracks or been involved in raising their own families or are ready to reinvent themselves or enter into an active retirement, they have opted for whatever reason to rise to the challenge of caregiving. It’s a tough transition for anyone.
She also points out that even though women historically have more opportunities to be caregivers -- as wives, daughters, sisters, and nieces – there are sons, husbands, brothers, and nephews who are taking on the task of caregiving as well and it is important not to ignore their contributions. Men should feel free to submit their questions to Gibbons, Dr. Galvin and others on the webinar panel as well.
“We know from surveys that an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is the scariest thing to hear next to cancer,” says Gibbons. But whereas people are living successfully with cancer, we don’t hear about anyone living successfully with Alzheimer’s.
The announcement by Pat Summitt that she will continue to coach basketball even after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis sends a valuable message that Alzheimer’s is not an automatic death sentence, says Gibbons. “The coach is the emotional compass of the team. Other people can help with plays and pragmatics, but Summitt can still be a source of leadership, and perhaps an even more powerful source of inspiration.”
In 2011, the first baby boomers turn 65 – the age when the risk for Alzheimer’s increases. One in eight boomers will get Alzheimer’s after age 65. Nearly 15 million family members and friends already provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers rate their emotional stress as high. We have to celebrate the small victories in the day to day lives of caregivers and their charges, and continue to stand up and speak out for and with them to send a strong message to Congress for funding of care and research.
Join us today. Again, the web address is http://alzheimersdiseases.com. What do you want to ask Leeza about Alzheimer’s?
Judy Kirkwood’s sister was an unpaid caregiver for their father and mother, who both suffered forms of dementia in their last years.