Care and Health: A generational Approach

Care and Health: A generational Approach

By: Brittney Payette

Cameron’s Academic Festival XII, “Care and Health: A Generational Approach,” continued at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Johnson Auditorium in Ross Hall with a special student session featuring stand-up comedian and author Leighann Lord. 

There was also a public session at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the University Theatre. Lord’s presentation was called “People with Parents: When the Roles Reverse.”

Lord said she learned a lot from caring for her aging parents and the role reversal that occurred. 

“I realize that what we think of as our final years is very arrogant,” she said. “You have no idea how much time you’ll get. None whatsoever, and if you are not living and loving to the best of your ability, you are wasting time.”

She said that people learn different lessons from being a caregiver.

“Time, health, and energy are finite resources that we really can’t afford to waste, no matter how old you are.”

Lord also said that humor has played a vital role in getting through some of the difficult times in her life. 

“I really do believe that if you can find the humor,” she said, “you can find the life lessons. Everyone’s life lessons will be different. Watching my parents age and fade has been instructive.”

Lord said that caregivers must use a lot of diplomacy and negotiation to try to help the older individual while still allowing them autonomy in their own lives. 

“This is new for them, too,” she said. “They’ve never been this age. They’ve never been this needy … there are a lot of things that they’re experiencing right now, and at least trying to do that dance with as much respect as possible. I wish it were easier.”

Lord said that the number of people 85 plus is increasing and that there needs to be more help and more funding for the growing need that caregivers face when it comes to taking care of their loved ones.

“It is honoring the aging life and family process,” she said. “It should be done, no questions asked. That’s the kind of level of help that we need.”

Lord shared personal stories from her experiences caring for her elderly parents. She said that when her parent’s lives changed, her life changed too when she began caring for her parents.

“According to AARP, the majority of family caregivers are women,” she said. “Forty eight percent of them care for a parent, but they’re also caring for spouses and partners and friends and neighbors and grandparents and in-laws and siblings, and this list goes on. And it is not cheap.”

She said that being a caregiver can be a very isolating experience, but there are things that people can do to help support someone who is a caregiver. 

“Offer to run errands,” she said. “If you’re close, walk the dog. Pick the kids up from school, send flowers for no reason, or remember their birthday.”

She said she also appreciated it when people would send her an Uber Eats gift card or just listen to her vent.

“What folks really need,” Lord said, “is respite care. You need a break. You need to be able to get away for a day or a weekend. If you can offer that to someone, you are giving them a great deal. That’s on the high end. On the low end, listening. If you can listen and lend an ear, a nonjudgemental ear, you have no idea the good you are doing.”

Lord said that getting assistance from others is crucial for caregivers.

“Not only do you have to ask for help,” she said, “but you have to learn how to accept it. That’s hard for some of us, especially my fellow type A’s who are comfortable doing everything, everywhere, all at once. That is the fastest way to caregiver burnout, or so I’ve found.”

She said that something she learned that she wants current caregivers or future caregivers to know is that they are going to need help. 

“This is not a job anyone should be doing by themselves,” Lord said. “It’s too hard.”

She also said that although it may be difficult, self-care has to be a priority.

“In order to take care of anyone else,” she said, “I first had to take care of me. Because if I fell by the wayside, they had nothing.”

Lord said that self-care can be challenging, especially for caregivers. She said that caregivers often feel guilt for engaging in self-care.

“Get over it,” she said. “They need you, but you need you. If you’re a caregiver, you need a stress relief plan; how are you dealing?”

Lord said that when someone is a caregiver, they have to manage not only the person(s) health that they are giving care to but also their own health.

Lord’s dad passed away in 2019, and her mom passed away in 2021.

“In the end, there was no hug that wasn’t given,” she said. “No argument that wasn’t had, and no ‘I love you’ left unsaid.”

Lord said that once she stopped being a caregiver after both of her parents passed, she learned she needed time to recover from that job.

“You need to grieve what was,” she said. “And who you were. ‘Cause you were a different person before this and during this … honor what you have done, and take the time to rebuild yourself and your life.”

Lord said that daily meditation, joining a Facebook support group for caregivers, spending time with friends, and therapy helped her cope with some of the difficulties that resulted from being a caregiver. 

For more information about Lord, visit her website at Lord also has a podcast called “People with Parents,” which can be found at 

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