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Caregiving: What we can learn from celebrities

Caring for an elderly parent or other loved one can be emotionally and financially stressful, especially without adequate long-term care insurance and health insurance. spoke with Sherri Snelling, founder of and author of “A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care” to gain insight into the challenges caregivers face and pick up tips on how to cope.  

caregivingWhat we can learn from celebrity caregivers

Can you tell us about the celebrity caregivers you interviewed for your book? What challenges do they face?

I included celebrities who are caring for older parents, as well as some who are caring for special needs children or spouses. I interviewed Alan and David Osmond, the father and son from the Osmond family who have multiple sclerosis, from the perspective of the person getting the care. I talked with Alana Stewart, who was a friend of Farrah Fawcett, and she literally put her life on hold for three years to chase a cure for cancer. I wanted to cover the spectrum of caregiving and all the different roles.

How many caregivers are there in the United States right now?

What we know is that 65 million Americans today are caring for a loved one – and that could be a special needs child all the way to an elderly parent and everything in between. Of those, 24 million are what is known as the “sandwich generation,” squeezed between caring for children and older parents.

Did the celebrities you interviewed learn any lessons that might help other others who are caring for loved ones?

“Good Morning America” host Joan Lunden cares for her elderly mom, who has dementia. She knew her mother had a long-term care insurance plan, but never asked for any details about it until she really had to start day-to-day caregiving. She found that the insurance covered only three years, and then it was over and done. Her mom has now lived nine years past the expiration of that plan. So, the lesson is that caregivers might just assume Mom or Dad is going to have Social Security, they’re going to have Medicare and maybe they have a long-term care policy. All of that is good, but it often doesn’t cover everything.

Are there any resources you recommend to people who want to learn more about coverage before they’re in that position?

Yes. The website really helps educate caregivers on what are the limitations and the solutions that long-term care insurance can deliver, and what you should expect in terms of benefits.

What else can caregivers learn from celebrity experiences?

Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker, the husband-and-wife team who were on “L.A. Law,” thought Jill’s mom would be covered by her husband’s veteran’s benefits. But she didn’t receive those benefits, so Jill and Mike had to step up. They sought the help of an elder law attorney, which can be a great resource. Elder law attorneys truly understand the intricacies of senior care, senior housing and Medicare.

You advocate for caregivers to take time out to care for themselves. Why is that so important?

MetLife did a study that shows working caregivers actually cost employers 8 percent more in health care costs and because they are neglecting their own health and wellness needs. So, you’ve got to balance some time for yourself while caring for your loved one.

One suggestion I have in the book is called “Me Time Monday.” Me time is not about, “Oh, I have to get to the gym.” Me time is all about thinking about what fills your soul – it could be reading a book, riding a bike or simply taking a walk. Find a few minutes every week and use Monday to decide when you’re going to take your me time, and remind yourself that you’re as important as the person you’re caring for.



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