Joan Lunden Takes on Yet Another Role: Family Caregiver

Millions of Americans spent 17 years saying good morning to Joan Lunden. Since vacating her anchor chair at ABC, Lunden has single-handedly built a successful business empire, which allows her to continue to grace the airwaves and connect with her fans. Behind closed doors, Lunden is tackling another issue that not only weighs heavily on her heart but also forced her into uncharted territory: Taking care of her 93-year-old mother who has dementia. An edited version of our phone interview with her follows.

by Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
joan lunden and her mom image
Joan Lunden, left, with her mom Gladyce Blunden.
Photograph: Ida Astute

More: You are launching your Twiztt cookware line, you co-wrote a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book and are the face of A Place for Mom, an information service for senior living locations. Do you ever slow down?
Joan Lunden: I am so fortunate that after having a great career in TV, I get to do so many fun projects. Although I didn’t turn out to be a doctor like my dad, I, too, want to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them stay healthy and take care of each other. Every project I get involved with sends that message.

More: You give new meaning to the phrase, “age is a state of mind.”
JL: It is not about the first 40 years. It is about figuring out how to write new chapters and reinvent yourself as you age. It’s constantly looking for ways to make your life more challenging, intriguing and fun. 

More: You got involved with A Place for Mom for a very personal reason?
JL: Yes. This is something I have been dealing with for a long time. When my mom, Gladyce, was 88 years old, I took over complete day-in and day-out care of her. My mother has dementia.

More: How awful for you, given the fact you lost your father and your brother, too.
JL: My brother had type 2 diabetes and had such a big struggle with his disease. I was the one taking care of him and my mom by keeping them in a condo together and making sure people came in to help them with their daily care. When my brother died six years ago from his health battle, my mom became my complete responsibility. It's been a huge part of my life.

More: How is your mom today?
JL: It was so difficult for my mom to deal with my brother's death, and I think she still hasn’t dealt with it. She talks about him as if he is still alive. That said, I am happy to say my mom is 93 years old and doing well. Although she has her good days and her bad days, she is now in a facility that I found through A Place for Mom. I moved her four times before I found the right fit, thanks to an adviser who helped me ensure her safety. I also do all of my mom’s shopping, and I make sure she has clean clothes.

More: What is A Place for Mom?
JL: It is a Web-based referral service that’s filled with useful information for helping as well as educating seniors and their families about finding the best senior living options for their needs.

More: When did you know something was wrong with your mom?
JL: My mom started getting forgetful. Plus, having a crisis in life can also increase one’s dementia. In my mom’s case, her dementia was increased exponentially when my brother died. She had lived with him for decades, and when he passed, it rocked her world. He was only 57 years old. The death of a child before a parent is a tough one for any parent to deal with. While she was dealing with that trauma, I came along and said, “Hey, you have to move out of your house, too.”

More: How did you prepare for that conversation?
JL: That was the hardest conversation I ever had to have. I am a journalist. I have done this story before. How could I not be prepared? You’re not prepared for something like this when it is your own. It is so difficult and something none of us wants to face.

First Published March 15, 2012

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Comments

Brandon Stone06.28.2013

There are plenty of senior living options, I'm glad that this one seems to be the right one for her as she beings to delve into them.

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