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The Valerie Harper Interview (Page 2 of 3)

Gary Barg:  You have to manage the care. You can’t just say, “Oh, I have a reputable caregiver now so I don’t have to think about it.”

Valerie Harper:  You do. I think you do. And they are there doing all that and letting you have a life. And beyond that, your loved one or your person that you are responsible for really needs to see you, you know? And even if they’re a pill, let them be a pill for a few minutes, but you show up and bring them a rose or whatever the guy wants—I don’t know, a little throw for his lap or something. Just every so often; not necessarily on an occasion.  But that’s what I found worked really well. And also, she was my sweet friend and I wanted to see her; so for me, it was easy. Sometimes it’s not because it gets difficult. But I also think that acknowledging the caregivers is very important.

Gary Barg:  Any other challenges with conservatorship when you were conservator for the fabulous Mrs. Vanderbilt?

Valerie Harper:  Oh, she was so beautiful. At 96, she was a beauty. Let’s see. Oh, sure, she was declining and then dealing with Sundowning. I would walk in the room and she’d be angry or say, “Valerie, you were supposed to here.” I would answer, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Or she would say, “I don’t want to see you now.”  I would say, “Okay, sure,” and I’d turn around and walk right out, wait a few minutes, and then knock on the door. She would say, “Oh, Valerie, come in. How good to see you.” It’s patience, I think; that is part of it.

Gary Barg:  Your patience and your attitude go a long way toward making sure the person you care for has a positive attitude.

Valerie Harper:  And is comfortable and feels good about… I mean, the Sundowning is real. But when I visited, sometimes she’d say, “I wish God would take me or something.”  I’d say, “Well, he will when it’s time.” I’d try to make it light. And my mom used to say to me, “Oh, Valerie, I’m sorry you have to go through this death watch.” She had lung cancer. And I said, “Mom, it’s not a death watch. You’re alive; it’s a life watch. When you’re dead, it will be a death watch and we will have a funeral. But right now, we’re living.” She’d say, “Okay, let’s watch Perry Mason.” [Laugh] You know, you can steer it that way for them so that while they’re alive, they’re alive and not just thinking with fear of what’s ahead.


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