What I Wish I'd Known About Time and Alzheimer's: Television Host Leeza Gibbons

Being the host of "Entertainment Tonight" for ten years taught Leeza Gibbons how to fill time on TV. Being an Alzheimer's caregiver taught her how to make time count.

Time is the enemy of Alzheimer's sufferers and their caregivers, so it's not surprising that the theme of this year's World Alzheimer's Day, next Sunday, is "No time to lose." That's something popular TV personality Leeza Gibbons wishes she'd understood better when she became a caregiver to her mother, Gloria Jean Dyson Gibbons, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1999.

"Although people tried to tell me, I suppose I couldn't quite appreciate then how valuable every day is," says the popular radio and TV personality, whose mother died in May at the age of 72. "We tend to focus so much on what's next that we forget to be present for what is now.

"Little things become so important," she adds. "I wish I'd known how much I'd come to treasure the sight of my mom heading out the door after she'd dressed herself, slip on top of her blouse, two mismatched shoes, and her purse over her shoulder."

Gibbons founded Leeza's Place to provide support and education to people newly diagnosed with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. More than just a website, Leeza's Place is composed of nine facilities across the country that offer activities designed to make the most of time with a loved one who has the disease.

"Memory television," for example, honors a person in the moment and also immortalizes her. "We invite our guests to gather together mementos, souvenirs, and other items that are reflective of who they are as a family," Gibbons explains. "They can be anything from college letter sweaters to Bat Mitzvah invitations, old photographs to record albums. We help them build a set, almost like a TV talk-show environment, surrounded by these depictions of their lives. Then family members -- from the littlest to the most senior members -- gather together and interview each other.

"We've found that we become so immersed in day-to-day routines that we often forget to tell our stories," Gibbons says. "That's what 'memory television' is all about."

Read the full interview with Leeza Gibbons.

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