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Dear Diary


2002- 2004

April 17, 2002 - Sharing Wisdom conference is now five years old and a great time for all in attendance, our first Robert M. Barg Memorial award winner, Mr. Sy Sperling makes a memorable and moving speech as does our keynote speaker, CBS’s Dr. Sean Kenniff. Sad note: The keynote speaker of our first Sharing Wisdom conference (1998), Mr. Robert Urich, passed away the day before the conference.

October 5, 2002 - With the Ohio hospice and Palliative care organization, we host a tremendously successful Fearless Caregiver Forum. Since the middle of august, I’ve been on the road every week, giving speeches at caregiver events. (My favorite part of what I do).

November 1, 2002 - Saw great issue of Real Simple magazine on newsstand in airport. Bought every copy. (Doesn’t hurt that we were interviewed) 

November 15, 2002 - Interesting two days. On the phone interviewing, Rob Lowe and Delta Burke – Gerald McReiney. All great folks and great caregivers. We have conducted over 35 celebrity caregiver interviews since the launch of Today’s Caregiver magazine.

December 5 2002 - On to Kentucky for a Louisville area Fearless Caregiver Forum. 

January 6, 2003  - Met with Leeza Gibbons Memory Disorder Foundation Executive Staff. We are going to hear incredible things from this organization. Leeza agrees to be Keynote Speaker for Sharing Wisdom conference (April 25)

February 1,2003  - Like so many national tragedies, the loss of the space shuttle Columbia plays out across the television sets in the lobby of the hotel where we hold the first annual National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) conference. As a board member I am proud of the staff’s efforts in creating a terrific first year event. 

February 9, 2003 - Our office is the scene of the judging for the first annual Caregiver Friendly awards. If only the judges knew what the place looked like the hour before they arrived! As I gave the instructions to the judges, I was (nearly) speechless looking across those assembled here on this sunny Sunday morning. Social worker, Eldercare Attorney, National Non-profit organization leader, case manager, insurance and marketing experts, Homecare organization president, physician and nationally renowned health media expert. How are we going to top this next year? We were impressed with the care and consideration they each gave to every entry. 

February 10, 2003 - Onto Tampa. I am due on Fox TV show “Your Turn With Kathy Fountain”. Learned a good lesson. I usually arrive for any event the day before, but this is only across the state and a ½ hour flight. Right? Wrong. A rare fog blankets western Florida and all Tampa flights are grounded. We get to Tampa one half hour before airtime. On the show were a caregiver who personifies “Fearless Caregiving” and a lawyer for a gentleman who killed his mother who was living with Alzheimer’s. The phones were jammed and we took calls nearly the whole show.

February 11, 2003 - I can stop holding my breath. Our first Tampa area Fearless Caregiver Forum is packed and a rollicking day. I think if we didn’t have to break for lunch we would still be fielding questions during the panel. Which would be all right with me.  Steven and I get funny stares from the folks at the Florida State Fair. Could be that we are the only ones in the entire fairgrounds in suits. Went to visit our Friend Cynthia and her HealthExpo staff. 

February 13, 2003 - Onto Savannah. And the Coastal Georgia Area Agency on Aging’s first annual conference, “From the Heart”. Yes, that is me doing the wheelies in the electric wheelchair on display. Hey, they left the keys in it, what’s a guy to do. These folks pulled off a truly terrific event and I’m proud to be there as the first keynote speaker. Besides, Savannah sure was pretty and this time I got there the night before.

February 19, 2003 - Tammy told me true. I spent a spellbound hour with Ms. Debbie Reynolds (for a future magazine cover interview). Here is a caregiver’s caregiver. She not only cared for her own parents and relatives, but a few years ago adopted a senior friend in need and became her caregiver. 

February 21, 2003 - A tragedy in the Today’s Caregiver Family. Throughout the past two months, my friend and our managing editor, Nancy Schonwalter has been taking nearly weekly trips to New Jersey to spend time with her dad, Lee, who was battling stomach cancer. At 8:30 this morning, Lee lost the battle. You would have to know Lee to understand how he waged the war in his own inimitable way. At eighty years of age, you could have sworn he was sixty-two, at most. I truly feel that I am a better person for having known him all these years, and that when times are tough, I am able to summon the willpower, humor and spirit that personified the man. 

March 13-16, 2003 - The best way I can think of to spend my birthday (15th) is talking to family and professional caregivers which I do this year during two sessions of the outstanding American Society on Aging conference held in Chicago. Terrific audience(s). I truly believe that they will bring back home with them the concepts of becoming a Fearless Caregiver to share with their clients and friends.  Also, a lot of fun to be in Chicago during Saint Patty’s day. Say no more! The first annual Today’s Caregiver Magazine Caregiver Friendly awards winners are announced.

March 28-29, 2003 - I was honored to be the keynote speaker for the fifth annual Agribility conference in Sioux City South Dakota.  I have been a fan of the Agribility project for many years.  Since 1991, Agribility has been helping people with disabilities farm safely, efficiently, and profitably   I must admit that South Dakota in March is, well COLD.  But the reception I received couldn’t be warmer.  I was very impressed by the interaction between those living in cities, on farms and on reservations and how much they learned from one another about caring for their loved ones during those two days.    


April 25, 2003 - We are excited that Keynote Speaker for the Fort Lauderdale Sharing Wisdom caregiver’s conference is Ms. Leeza Gibbons. Leeza is announcing the launch of her new foundation to support caregivers of those living with memory disorders.  Leeza and her foundation staff are wonderful to work with.  I am glad that Kimberly Clark is a sponsor of the event, since there wasn’t a dry eye in the house once Leeza and her dad finished speaking.

June 2003 - Is a road trip month, onto Muncie, Toledo and Washington, D.C. for Keynote speeches. Two at aging conferences and one at the SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) conference. SMA is a disease which affects the voluntary muscles for activities such as crawling, walking, head and neck control and swallowing in infants and children. It was truly heart wrenching to see how severely some of the kids are affected by the disease but heart warming to see how each member of every family that I met at the conference had a role to play in the care of their loved one.  I was astounded at how well some of the youngest siblings of those with SMA were taking on their caregiving roles. One teenager was able to unload (from the family van) take apart and reassemble his younger brothers array of mobility equipment in lightning speed. All the while, shepherding his siblings to the front desk without losing a beat.   The third anniversary of Gramps passing.

 July 4, 2003 - Our Ninth anniversary.  So, that’s where all the grey hairs came from.  Hard to imagine that it was so many years ago that rain soaked day when the first issue of Today’s Caregiver Magazine rolled off the press.  Consistently over one million plus hits on and the newly upgraded discussion list is working well, we are getting a regular group of caring caregivers who are helping to support the new members to the list. We are gearing up for our two August events with Ms. Debbie Reynolds. The second edition of The Fearless Caregiver Book is released in paperback.  July also saw me back in D.C., this time as a guest of one of my radio idols, Ms. Diane Rehm.  Along with me on the program was someone who really exemplifies living as a fearless caregiver, Ms. Irene Jackson-Brown. 

August 5, 2003 - We are joined in Cleveland by Ms. Debbie Reynolds and over 340 caregiving Ohioans for the Cleveland Fearless Caregiver Conference.   The Toledo Area Agency on Agency loaded a bus with 50 caregivers for the three hour trip to Cleveland.  Debbie was (what else) terrific and I was impressed that the attendees related to her as another caregiver with a story to share.  No questions about Liz or Eddie or even being Tammy, rather the questions were all of a personal nature asking how she deals with her stress and depression as a family caregiver which she answered as well as any social worker or therapist could.  

August 10, 2003 - Thanks to USA Today for including us in a great article on senior drivers.  This is a topic which regularly comes up during our conferences and the potential answers are as varied as the families in which these driving battles are regularly played out.  

August 28, 2003  - We are once again with Debbie in Phoenix, Arizona for a Sharing Wisdom conference and over 400 of our closest Phoenician friends.  We were able to present a Care heroes award to a recipient who could not attend the Fort Lauderdale event, Ms. Bonnie Danowski.

September 5, 2003 - I’m in Corpus Christi as the keynote speaker at the Grandparents raising Grandchildren conference. This is a huge issue of concern to anyone who cares for caregivers. In so many families these days there is a generation missing and those seniors who are caring for family members with aging issues are now finding themselves also squeezing into elementary school classroom chairs during parent-teacher conferences for their grandchildren. I was also able to speak on the issue at the Corpus Christi NBC and CBS affiliates.

September 23, 2003 -  Back to South Dakota to speak at the Area Agency on Aging’s annual caregiving conference. An extremely lively interaction with family and professional caregivers held on the state fair grounds.   And then onto Kodiak, Alaska.  A beautiful town with a big heart. The conference was held in a high school auditorium with a stage and sound system which would rival Broadway.  The night before the conference the Russian symphony played in the auditorium.  The caregiver event had an impressive turn out, with people coming from towns and islands from miles away.  We can all learn from the sense of community that rural caregivers in Alaska bring to the picture. Can’t wait to be invited back. Met Governor Hammond, the octogenarian two-time governor of Alaska, who has more energy than I think I ever will and was battling for Alaska’s seniors for decades.

October 25, 2003  - Closer to home, one of the only events I have been able to drive to.  It is extraordinary how the healthcare organizations (for and non profit) have come together in Melbourne.  The event was truly a celebration of the community’s sense of unity as well as a celebration of its families who care. Things happen so very fast with this group.  Within a week after the event I introduced them to Leeza’s team and they are about to open the third Leeza’s Place in the country.  

November 13 and 14, 2003 - The shoe is on the other foot week.  I am being presented an award by The Partnership for Aging at their annual conference held in Oklahoma City.  After being on the giving end of awards it’s a funny feeling to receive one, but I am in good company.  Another recipient is Jack Lalanne who is in better shape today than I have probably ever been.   Got to speak to a group of soggy (awful night) caregivers in Stillwater the night before, which makes for a great trip all around.  We have partnered with the folks who have made the internet a political tool from this campaign forward, thanks to their work with the Howard Dean campaign,  Meetup has asked us to be their partner in creating an opportunity for caregivers to meet on a regular basis in small groups around the country.  Since the idea of caregivers getting together is near and dear to our hearts, we were thrilled to oblige.

December 15, 2003 -
An entirely different trip awaits as we take off for a three week trip to the Philippines.  We receive so much email from caregivers in the country that I jump at a chance to go.  We met with government organizations, caregivers and caregiver trainers to get a better picture of what is needed in the country.  Went to a rural festival (kind of like a Sadie Hawkins dance) and ate something which didn’t agree with me to the tune of three days in the hospital.  I must say that I wanted to experience the Philippines healthcare system – but not this up close and personal.  The doctors and staff were exceptionally caring and competent and a three day trip to the hospital in the states would have probably been more then the $60 dollar bill I received for services rendered. One of the most impressive things I saw was how well the families of the patients are treated. They expect that family members will stay with loved ones and have beds and food ready for them.  Like McArthur, I can’t wait for an opportunity to return- to the Philippines, not the hospital.

January 31, 2004 - In Los Angeles, for our first LA Fearless Caregiver conference.  I am so excited about spreading the word westward.  We constantly hear from the caregivers who attended the conferences over the past years and I most especially love the stories of when they are able to apply some things that they learned at the event they attended in heir daily life as caregiver. The caregivers and healthcare organizations in LA have been outstanding to work with and I spoke with a group of dedicated professionals in Carson, California two days ago.  The event is held on probably the coldest day LA has seen in years, but thankfully one of the clearest.  The sky was crystal clear. The center at UCLA was beautiful and as the Q and A session started to roll so did the tears.  I thank the caregivers who bravely stood to tell their story and ask questions of the expert panel but am especially grateful to the many times when the answers they sought came for their fellow attendees.  One special moment occurred when a gentleman stood and told of his life as a person living with Alzheimers and how he was caring for his wife living with MS. The 2004 LA Fearless Caregiver award recipients were so very well-deserved, Theresa Lowe and Dr. Donna Benton of the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center. Leeza shared the stage with two gentlemen who where caring for their loved ones and of course more tears flowed (that’s why I now travel with the giant size Kleenex).   We look forward to a return trip to LA. 

February 22, 2004 - Like all good caregiving, what we do around here is a team effort. None of it is possible “if not for the courage of our fearless crew.”  The only way that Steven and I are able to spend time with caregivers at the Fearless Caregiver conferences and I am able to speak at other events is because of our staff, headed by Nancy Schonwalter, the  Managing Editor, but that does not tell the whole story. The joke around here is that Nancy refuses to learn anything about the phone system because there needs to be one thing that she cannot be called upon to explain or fix. I am writing this on Saturday afternoon and Nancy is also in the office having been here til midnight on deadline. (I think in the past three months there have been only about two weekends that have not found her in the office) with Adnan Razak who redesigned the magazine taking us into the level of the national glamour magazines he worked on as creative director his years in New York. I always look forward to going on the road to talk with caregivers and one of the reasons is that I know that things are so ably attended to back at home base.     

February 25, 2004. Touched by a Roomful of Angels. Our first Atlanta Fearless Caregiver Conference was this week and I was lucky to have found myself spending the day with a roomful of angels including Reverend Della Reese. The morning Q and A session was a fast paced exciting section of the event, with answers to participant questions flying across the room. I am thankful to the panel of experts who were there to help answer these questions but was overwhelmed by the tremendous answers coming from the caregivers in the audience. That’s what being a Fearless Caregiver is about.  We were all moved by the lovely lady dressed in all white who brought her daughter to the event , (okay, dragged her daughter) because the lady in white knew that she had significant memory problems and wanted her daughter to be able to get all the help support and advice she deserved. The ice sculpture supplied by the hotel was a nice touch, but about an hour after we left, the sculptor could have scooped the ice off of the streets (two inches of snow fell that night). Della Reese joined us in the afternoon and was all that you would imagine her to be; giving, warm and knowledgeable. She spoke of the wonderful work of Faith in Action and signed autographed, took pictures and had fun with the attendees until the very last person left. An Angel indeed.

March 2004 - Steven and I spent time at the American Society on Aging conference in San Francisco, where we met up with friends and colleagues from around the world to discuss the latest advances in supporting seniors and their caregivers. Hint: there are a lot of fun technologies on the horizon. It is also always a great time spending a few days with hundreds of our fellow senior advocates.

April 29 - 30, 2004 -  We spent the day with 540 of our closest friends and neighbors at the eighth annual caregiver conference we have held in our own back yard of Southeastern Florida. Leeza Gibbons graced us with her presence once again and immediately connected with a large roomful of her fellow caregivers. Not only is it bad enough to have to follow a class act like Leeza on stage at our own conference, but the very next day, I followed Leeza and Art Linkletter at the LTCforum in Orlando - I think I am going to fire my agent. Art was a truly i /mpressive speaker, not only for his talent and humor (he was really funny), but his big heart. I spoke to the audience of Long Term Care insurance professionals about how to best support the people that they most often find themselves sitting across the kitchen table from, the family caregiver. With the amount of bright and caring people in the audience, I think any old stereotypes of people in the insurance industry are certainly dead and buried.

June, 2004 - Okay, you don’t really have to genuflect, but I must warn you that as of today, I am certifiable royalty (and have the plaque to prove it)…at least in Kentucky. I spent a wonderful day with the good folks of the Purchase Area Agency On Aging at a terrific caregiving conference, complete with Santa Claus (really). At the end of the event, I was honored to be presented with a plaque signed by the mayor officially designating me an official Duke of Paducah. (See, I wasn’t kidding.)

Oh, yeah, one other thing happened in June, I was honored to be invited to the first annual Celebration of Caregivers Gala put on by the Rosalynn Carter Institute. It s always a pleasure to be in the same room as Mrs. Carter, this time accompanied by President Carter and I am immense fans of Ronda Talley and the staff of RCI. Oh, yes, it was also fun to spend a little time with one of my favorite new singers, Mr. Clay Aiken. Talk about wowing an audience. I interviewed him in his dressing room and found him to be quite knowledgeable about caregiving for children. He should be, as a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte School of Social Work and co-founder of the Bubel-Aiken Foundation (Hey, we all need something to fall back on.)

July 2004 – Not a month to “hang at the beach” - but who cares?  I wouldn’t want to spend it any other way.  We hosted our first annual Philadelphia Fearless Caregiver conference with our good friends at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). It was a great day and we were able to honor three tremendous Fearless Caregivers, two who have opened their homes to caregivers needing to stay in the area when loved ones are in the hospital. And one who has opened her heart to a child with no place else to go.  It was a distinct pleasure to spend the day with Ella Brown, and Lotte & Chad Gottschlich.

 August 2004 - I went to Midland Michigan where a family caregiver named Roger taught me to “Hope Less and Care More” Roger was talking about the upcoming holiday weekend and how he worries about the care his wife June will require. He said that he found himself saying, “I hope she is not incontinent”, ”I hope I can handle things”,  “I hope we can manage”. (June attends daycare 5 days a week. He starts providing care at 4:30 each morning.)  He realized that he has to step back and “hope less” about things and “care more”, knowing that he will be able to meet the challenges of her care.  That piece of advice alone was worth the trip as far as I’m concerned.

September 2004 - The Fearsome Four.  This Summer/Fall, we in South Florida were visited by a quartet of blowhards; Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne. Luckily none of these four hurricanes scored a direct hit on my hometown of Fort Lauderdale; unfortunately, they wrecked havoc on other parts of this state. Two of them actually cut across the same exact path within weeks of one another. Actually, the last of the four hurricanes was the only one that hit while I was out of the area since I was born here, many moons ago. This is not the at-bat average I would have hoped for as a kid. It was a stunning realization sitting in the Pocono mountains during that September weekend that the entire world did not consist of non-stop weather forecasts before and during the event. Actually, my cohorts had to pry the remote control from my fingers in order to take advantage of the business retreat for which I had gone to the mountains. Oh well, there’s always next hurricane season.

October 2004 - Big changes online. Whew, after months of backbreaking work from our design and web teams, the redesign is finally done. From the design to the new navigational system, everything was carefully crafted to remake into an evermore friendly place for caregivers to feel at home. Hey, after ten years we all need some freshening up. Most important of all, more options for interaction between caregivers were added; chats, upgraded discussion boards, opportunities to share recipes and receive situation specific advice in our ever growing roster of channels.

We had fun at our second annual Phoenix Fearless Caregiver conference. A world class panel of experts and a Shrine auditorium filled with interested caregivers. As the governor of a neighboring state would say “We’ll be back.”

November 2004 - Presidents on my mind. I spent some time in the home of a remarkable former president, Abe Lincoln, hosting a caregiving conference for the Project Life Area Agency on Aging.  It is only fitting in this intense political season, to spend some time with Abe. He had a heck of a battle for the White House, too and I hope the winner of this month’s presidential elections will lead us through our own times as well as Abe led our predecessors through their own trials and tribulations. 

W are very excited about the November/December cover interview in Today’s Caregiver magazine, Ms. Naomi Judd.  Spiritual, loving and a professional caregiver, Naomi was the perfect choice with which to launch our Rural Caregiving issue.

December 2004 - As the holiday season approaches, I have begun to hear from friends, family and readers about a staggering amount of the most personal kind of theft – identity theft.  What an unforgivably terrible thing to do family caregivers.  These days, it is almost impossible not to be touched by this criminal act, as so much information about us exists in the ionosphere.  There are some things you can do to help yourself avoid this crime, and with the following newsletter, we begin to take a hard look at the issue of identity theft. weekly_newsletter120804.htm


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