By Patty Schaller
When Miriam House’s husband Tom was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease she became his caregiver. The couple had always been each other’s support, so caring for Tom was the natural thing to do and Miriam was glad to do it.
But as time went on, Miriam realized that she needed some help herself. She needed some relief from the responsibility of care-giving, and she found it at Leeza’s Care Connection, at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. The program, which grew out of Leeza’s Place in Sherman Oaks, reaches out to families with loved ones suffering from memory loss or other chronic conditions.
“I don’t really know what I would do if I didn’t have them,” Miriam says. “It’s such a caring atmosphere and the leadership directs things so well. I’m grateful that they’re here.”
Tucked into a cozy area at St. Joseph’s, Leeza’s Care Connection provides support groups for adults and teens, resource referrals, health and wellness programs, and care-giving workshops. These are designed to teach caregivers how to take care of themselves, reduce stress, communicate more effectively, and cope with many emotions. They also learn to set goals and problem-solve.
Miriam can even bring Tom with her to the Care Connection.
The program also reaches out to the Spanish-speaking community. “We are advocates for the Spanish-speaking caregivers,” says Program and Outreach Assistant Director Nadia Cantuña, who runs the Spanish program. “There is a huge need in educating the Latino community about Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and memory loss. We connect them to community resources that they don’t even know they need and to other caregivers.”
There are Spanish support groups and a Spanish bereavement group as well as educational workshops on topics they’ll need. “Illness is a private family issue in the Latino community. They don’t share. The biggest thing we want people to know is that we exist!”
The founder of Leeza’s Care Connection and the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation is talk-show host, New York Times best seller author, and entrepreneur Leeza Gibbons, who started the Foundation as a promise to her mother to “tell her story and make it count.”
Gibbons will sign copies of her new book, Take 2, Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings, and host a book discussion on Saturday, March 2, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Leeza’s Care Connection at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center located at 501 S. Buena Vista St. in Burbank.
Sales of the book will help to fund free support programs at Leeza’s Care Connection.
Take 2 is about fearlessly starting over at various stages of life. “With this book about starting over, I honor all of those who were sucked into their next act without the luxury of choosing it. But care-givers, most of all, can find the value and the promise of creating a fresh start,” Gibbons says. And she knows, because she did it herself.