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