FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN
/ Plus One
I have always said that having a roomful of 400
family caregivers and a celebrity who has gone
through family caregiving means you actually have
401 family caregivers in the room. This statement
has hardly ever rung more true than last week at our
eighth annual New Haven Fearless Caregiver
Conference. Our keynote speaker was Patricia
Richardson, who played Jill Taylor in the television
program Home Improvements and many other
television, film and stage roles.
Pat came in from New York as her own home in
Connecticut had lost power days earlier in the
massive snow storm that hit the state so hard.
We were grateful that the weather was absolutely
perfect the day of the event. She and her puppy,
Olive, left New York early to be with us for as much
of the day as possible. Pat was a little concerned
that we had her listed as keynote speaker since she
really would rather interact with her fellow
caregivers than give a speech. I told her that
we call the events the no speechifying and no
PowerPoint zone, for which she was grateful.
Once Pat stood up to talk, her conversation was
personal and interactive—talking about her
challenges as caregiver to a strong-willed dad,
helping her sister through the sudden death of her
brother-in-law, and the need to standardize the laws
for “taking away driver’s licenses” when necessary.
What really impressed me was when she took all
questions asked of her and shared advice with the
family caregivers in the room. When Pat spoke of the
guilt associated with the possibility of long-term
care placement for her dad, a caregiver in the room
spoke of her own guilt because she believed it would
be better for her entire family that her own dad
live in an appropriate long-term care facility.
As national spokesperson for
CUREPSP, an organization for those living with
the disease that claimed her dad’s life, Pat is a
care advocate. But at the event, she was simply one
of the caregivers who were sharing stories and
learning from one another. In fact, as a caregiver
said of the day, “Hey, this is like a big support
group!” Exactly right.