Even Hollywood A-listers can find themselves inhabiting the role of a caregiver. From action stars to bestselling authors and TV personalities, here are a few celebrity caregivers sharing encouraging words of wisdom from their own experiences.
The New Kids on the Block singer lost his mother to Alzheimer’s last year. Of her life battling the disease he said “The last few years there was just love and sweetness. She had a strong abiding faith in her God. And I am a product of that faith.” McIntyre continues to raise money to help find a cure for the disease.
The Grey’s Anatomy star created The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing after his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1998. His advice for other caregivers? Stay positive. “Whatever your strength is, that’s okay. Be patient at the beginning to figure out what your role will be. Don’t be afraid. Empower yourself with information, and that information will give you the strength that you need.”
In 2002, the star founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, dedicated to improving Alzheimer's care and finding a cure after both her mother and grandmother fell victim to the disease. On what she learned from watching their battles with illness: “I've always found my mother's courage to be amazing. She truly was a steel magnolia. She faced her disease with all the grace and dignity she could muster day by day. She showed me what living was all about: showing up and doing the best we can.”
Maria Shriver has become the face of the Alzheimer’s movement. The author, who served as executive producer of the Oscar-nominated film Still Alice, has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association for her Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge. On caring for her father, who passed away from the disease in 2011, she said, “You ask for God's grace and for His help. You go through your life trying to do the best you can, doing it elegantly, and with grace and dignity. That's my motto.”
The Parks and Recreation actor’s father is a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor and both his mother and grandmother lost their battles to breast cancer. The star works with the Cancer Hope Network to raise support for caregivers, specifically male caregivers thanks to his experience watching his own grandfather. “My grandmother, Peg Helper, had breast cancer and I watched her fight it for almost 20 years. Through it all, my grandfather was so supportive, which inspired me; every man should approach this disease with the same dignity.”
Holly Robinson Peete is part of the Sandwich Generation of family caregivers. Her father died in 2002 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease and her son Ryan has autism. Peete soon launched her own foundation and currently works with Autism Speaks to raise funding and awareness for the disorder. "Knowing my family can help others and maybe ease their caregiving journey is the best gift of all," she says. "At some point, you take your guilt and you move on — and I did that by paying it forward."
The comedian opened up to Glamour magazine about his mother-in-law’s battle with Alzheimer’s and why he and his wife decided to start their own organization – Hilarity for Charity – in order to help other families also dealing with the disease. “The depressing thing about Alzheimer's is you can't do anything a lot of the time. But just sitting there, watching it happen, was emotionally brutal.”
The Happy Days star was a long-distance caregiver for his mother who suffered a stroke in the early 90s. His advice for fellow caregivers? Have tenacity. "Somehow you keep the fire burning to take those tiny steps forward because it is so easy to just give up.”
The Fast and the Furious star’s mom was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in 2009. On her battle with the disease Johnson said he learned we must “always take a moment to count our blessings [because] there's always something to be grateful for.”
Meredith Vieira’s husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis before the two even met. After years of marriage, children and two separate cancer diagnoses, Vieira left her job to spend more time with her family. Of caring for her husband, she says the most important thing is to find the comedy amidst tragedy. “Humor's essential. We always found something to laugh about. And we still do. It's what gets you through."
Read More: Kim Campbell on caring for her husband, music superstar Glen Campbell, as he deals with Alzheimer's disease. Also, learn about caring for a loved one with late-stage dementia.
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