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The HollyRod Interview (Page 2 of 3)

An Interview with Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete


Holly Robinson Peete:  Oh, I think it definitely kept him going.  I have nobody else to thank but Bill Cosby who really  could have let my father go on the grounds that it was just a physical grind for him to suffer from Parkinson's and keep up the schedule of a comedy writer.  Mr. Cosby kept my father employed and I think that just kept the spark, the fire burning in him. Now, every time I see Mr. Cosby, I always tell him, “Thank you so much; you just gave him such a great ending and he felt such a sense of self-worth.” Mr. Cosby always says, “Listen, I was not doing him any favors.  He was the funniest writer we had.”  That always makes me smile. 

Gary Barg: What does the Compassionate Care Program do for people living with Parkinson's and their caregivers?

Holly Robinson Peete: The Compassionate Care Program for Parkinson's is located at the University of Southern California.   It is really lovely because we are able to provide services, especially in an area that is underserved, to be seen by a really good neurologist, to have exercise in their life.  Studies have proved time and time again that exercise is really the key to alleviate symptoms and to hold symptoms back.  We have occupational and speech therapies as well and we do caregiver respite care.  We will pay to have caregivers go to get a massage or a salon treatment, or just something so that they can have some time off.  That is so key, because the caregivers are just the glue that holds it all together.

Gary Barg:  Rodney, you and Holly have really created a vital personal and professional relationship, but many times we men have a real hard time with caregiving.  What challenges did you face when you first dealt with family caregiving?

Rodney Peete:  First of all, in dealing with Parkinson's, I did not really know what it was.  So to have it affect Holly's dad like it did, what I tried to do is to educate myself as much as possible. From my background, it was the exercise and the health part of it. Keeping yourself moving was something that I knew was right.  I did not know how much of an impact it would have.  So as we got into caring for her dad, especially once he moved in with us; we got him on an exercise bike and a treadmill. Opening up the Compassionate Care Program really allowed me to understand the impact that exercise could have and what I could do as a caregiver; and the impact I could have just by being there and communicating with Holly's dad and being in his space, talking  and interacting with him on a regular basis. 

Gary Barg:  How important was relating with other family members going through what you were going through?

Holly Robinson Peete:  It was very important to relate to them, especially when it comes to autism. There was a lot of denial and a lot of educating we had to do with our other family members about both Parkinson's and autism.  We were all learning. When my dad was diagnosed, it was in the 80s. We had not yet seen Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox and people like that come out and really give us this face and this positive element to what Parkinson's was.  We had to learn a lot on our own and share all that information with our families and with our loved ones and get them onboard.  With autism, it is quite different because there is a lot of stigma. There are a lot of things that we still do not understand.  We understand a lot more about Parkinson's than we do about autism and there was a level of denial that we had to deal with, with some family members, and that did pose some issues,  I think that it is fair to say.

Rodney Peete:  Yes, there is a level of denial with your immediate family, with parents, with Holly, and more so me in terms of autism.  Unless you educate yourself, people can tend to stay away, and that includes family members.  So you have got to take the scare away and really try to help educate folks on what exactly is going on and how to help, rather than hurt the situation.

Gary Barg: Take the scare away; I really like that emotion, because that is what happens.  A lot of times people do stay away because it frightens them or they do not know how to respond to you, or they do not know how to help. 


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