When we are kids, we go hunting for idols. We long to find someone who is just a little bit like us but is living a life beyond our wildest dreams. When I became my grandmother’s caregiver in 2003, I started to search for caregiver “idols.” My own grandmother had been an amazing example of love and patience as a caregiver to my great-grandmother. However, I was desperate to find a more modern example to emulate. I became a primary caregiver at the age of 28, and yet when I looked online for resources or advice, the faces that stared back at me looked a generation or more above me. It made me feel alone on my journey.
Finding out that a celebrity was also a caregiver was a bit of an awakening. Not only are these performers actively involved in the care and health management of their loved one, but many times they have continued on to become fierce advocates for finding cures.
A caregiver, as defined by the National Center on Caregiving, is an “unpaid individual (a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.” Not every caregiver is a primary caregiver living in the home of their loved one. In fact many of the caregivers in the U.S. are called “long -distance caregivers” and end up playing a sort of traffic cop with doctor’s appointments, family, and finances. I can not imagine how stressful it would be to do all of that on top of a tedious filming schedule!
November is National Family Caregivers Month. According to the latest numbers released by the Caregiver Action Network, 42 million Americans are caregivers to a loved one with a chronic condition. Give a shout-out to these celebrities for being a caregiver, or give thanks to a caregiver within your family. The Thanks Project is a new social quilt of thank you’s that just launched earlier this week. Users can upload a note, photo or video to thank a caregiver in their life. I spent some time on the site earlier today and uploaded a thank you to the woman who provided two hours of respite care to me every week.
To all of the family caregivers: I hope this list of celebrity caregivers helps you realize you are not alone in your journey. You are in OUTSTANDING company. And I thank you.
21 Amazing Celebrity Caregivers
Celebrity Caregivers 1 of 22
Love them for their craft, but admire them for their care: these celebrities lead inspiring lives off the screen as caregivers to family members.
Joey McIntyre 2 of 22
I wish Joey would write more about his experience as his mother's caregiver as I think many young people would connect to his story. It is deeply upsetting to witness someone you know to be brilliant and witty lose their mind.
Patrick Dempsey 3 of 22
Patrick's mother fought (and beat!) ovarian cancer twice. Both times all of her children were an active part of her support system. Patrick built the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing to help other families get support.
Leeza Gibbons 4 of 22
Leeza lost her grandmother and mother to Alzheimer's. One of the things I have always been so appreciative of is how open Leeza has been about her own struggles with caregiving. "None of us has a team when this happens. We don't know what we don't know. We fumble around in our pain for so long. Once you're drowning in that sea of overwhelm it's almost impossible to catch your breath and see possibilities. But there are resources."
Hillary Clinton 5 of 22
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a long time champion of caregiver support. In a post honoring first lady caregivers on the Alzheimer's Association website we learn, "her mother's illness, a topic that was kept private from the invasive world of 24/7 news media, made Clinton one of those caregivers she had championed so often in Congress."
Holly Robinson Peete 6 of 22
Maria Shriver 7 of 22
Maria has done a lot of work advocating for caregivers and people with Alzheimer's. Just by admitting that she has struggled and felt overwhelmed has helped others feel more comfortable about sharing their own caregiver stories.
Nancy Reagan 8 of 22
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has exuded so much grace as a public persona of caregivers. She perfectly explained the unique isolation caregivers and their families can feel, "We have learned, as too many other families have learned, of the terrible pain and loneliness that must be endured as each day brings another reminder of this very long goodbye."
Rob Lowe 9 of 22
After supporting his father through his battle with cancer, Rob became an advocate for caregivers to educate themselves on treatment options. Rob is a big champion for male caregivers and he had his grandfather as inspiration. "I can just remember the amazing way my grandfather would just love my grandmother as a 'woman,' and not just as a patient."
Marg Helgenberger 10 of 22
Marg's father was diagnosed with MS when he was only 45 years old. Just before his diagnosis, her mother had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. When Marg left home to pursue an acting career, she says her family created a "caregiving tag team." Her mother and brother were the primary caregivers and Marg assisted with finances.
Baldwin Brothers 11 of 22
Rosalynn Carter 12 of 22
When it comes to being a caregiver icon, you can't top former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Mrs. Carter established the Institute for Caregiving and has published several books for caregivers. Mrs. Carter became a caregiver at the age of 12 when her father was diagnosed with terminal leukemia.
Image Credit: Carter Library
Henry Winkler 13 of 22
Henry was a long distance caregiver to his mother who suffered a stroke. His sister was able to do a lot of the primary caregiving, but Henry was as involved as he could be while living across the country. Of splitting the caregiving role, Henry says: "It was tough to share responsibility with her, and when I couldn't, I felt guilty. I was so appreciative for my sister being there when I couldn't be."
Seth Rogen 14 of 22
Seth's mother-in-law has early onset Alzheimer's. The entire family is actively involved in her care. His father-in-law retired at age 62 to become a primary caregiver and Seth and his wife Lauren provide supplemental care.
Debbie Reynolds 15 of 22
Debbie has been a caregiver since she was 14 years old and she needed to step in to help care for her mother who had a heart condition. She later took on the role of caregiver for her father as well.
Joan Lunden 16 of 22
Dixie Carter 17 of 22
Dixie moved her father into her home after her mother passed away. She and her children worked to create a home where her father could be comfortable and safe for as long as possible.
Dana Reeve 18 of 22
Being a caregiver to Superman pretty much makes you a superwoman. Dana continued to give advice to caregivers based on her experience as her husband's caregiver. One of her gems that always resonated with me is: "The first thing you have to do is accept that this is your life. This is your life. This is the new normal, like it or not. You need to find balance in your life. You need to be in it for the long haul."
Peter Gallagher 19 of 22
Peter watched his mother decline through the stages of Alzheimer's for 20 years. After she passed away he became a member of the National Advisory Council of the Alzheimer's Association and participates in charity walks every year.
Bryan Cranston 20 of 22
Dwayne Johnson 21 of 22
Dwayne was a support to his mom through her battle with lung cancer. His mother had a late stage cancer but after aggressive rounds of both chemotherapy and radiation, she was declared cancer-free!
Victor Garber 22 of 22
Both of Victor's parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He acknowledges that, "Living at home with an Alzheimer's patient, it's beyond stressful and it takes its toll on everyone." He suggests caregivers "reach out and talk to people about it and hear other people's stories because it's a very scary and unpredictable disease."
All images, unless noted otherwise, are from PR Photos.
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