Leigh is the founder of The 50Plus Talk and a former family caregiver to her late father, Julius. Beginning in 1997, Leigh was the primary caregiver for her father for 14 consecutive years.
Leigh’s caregiving story is like so many – at the beginning she believed the work would be manageable, but as her fathers health declined, she quickly realized she would need support.
We spoke with Leigh about her experience as a caregiver. Here’s what she had to say.
What made you seek a formal diagnosis?
In 1997, during my weekly visits to Dad’s home, I noticed that he was becoming more forgetful. He began to forget to turn off the water in the kitchen sink and the burners on his stove. A few years later, we decided he would need more support and our family decided to explore safe and healthier living arrangements.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew then?
The four main aspects of family caregiving I wish I knew then that I know now are:
- Where to locate affordable Assisted Living or Independent Living
- How to navigate a full-time job and family caregiving
- How to care for myself, stay healthy, and remain actively engaged in my personal life while caregiving
- Where to locate the answers and resources to these questions
If you don’t know where to start, you are not alone. I encourage everyone to find their local CRC center and utilize the resources available.
As a caregiver, what resources do you think would be beneficial to offer?
Today’s family caregivers are fortunate to have multiple options for exceptional caregiver and caregiving resources, including the California Caregiver Resource Centers, AARP, the Rosalynn Carter Institute, or – if you are a veteran or military caregiver – The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is a phenomenal resource.
What advice do you have for fellow caregivers?
Reach out and ask for help from a family member, or your community. Don’t wait until you experience burnout or you compromise your own physical and mental health. Your health and wellbeing is just as important as the health and wellbeing of your loved ones. Self-care is a widely discussed topic in caregiving circles. The importance of self-care must not be underestimated.
How has your experience as a caregiver influenced your career and life?
My personal experience as a family caregiver has given me the groundwork to create a Talk Show which truly understands the specific needs of the family caregiver. I have sat in emergency rooms for 6 hours, stayed awake all night to care for my dad after he returned home from a long hospital stay, and missed work because of a medical emergency. The blessing in all of this is now I have the opportunity to minister and care for other caregivers with the knowledge I have been given. The journey dad and I shared for 14 years was not in vain if we are able to help someone else navigate their caregiving journey successfully.
What is The 50Plus Talk?
“The 50PlusTalk” is a collective experience of sharing important information relevant to our 50+ generation, and celebrating our culture, social justice movements and life as we choose to create it for ourselves in our golden years. My community of followers on social media consists of current and former family caregivers, and wonderful caregiving organizations striving to empower, equip and care for the caregiver.
My brand, “The 50Plus Talk”, was conceived and forged out of my desire to honor my Dad’s life and our experiences during our 14 year caregiving journey. I conceived my idea in 2009 and began branding on Twitter in 2013 as 50 Plus and Fabulous! I soon realized the name 50 Plus and Fabulous! was too long, and would be more effective as a tagline than a name for a talk show so I created the name “The 50PlusTalk” and began rebranding.
How did you get involved with AARP?
AARP approached me in late 2015 and inquired if I would be interested in becoming a volunteer for their organization. I said yes and the rest is history! I hold two volunteer positions within the organization. I am a Caregiver Advocate which means I conduct seminars in the community called “Prepare To Care”. These informative seminars provide guidance to family caregivers on how to prepare effectively for the responsibilities of caregiving.
I am also a District Liaison which means I am assigned an Assembly, Senate and Congressional Office within specific districts. I meet with the staff and the elected Officials on a monthly basis and keep them fully informed of current legislation impacting their 50+ constituents. My journey with AARP has been educational, inspiring and has allowed me the opportunity to conduct community outreach and help our precious family caregivers.
Leigh’s story is a great reminder about how important it is to ask for help. You do not have to go on this caregiving journey alone. Find your local CRC and reach out today!Share this post: