South Florida Hospital News
Sunday May 24, 2020
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April 2006 - Volume 2 - Issue 10

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Leeza’s Place Launched in South Florida

There’s no denying that a memory disorder is a difficult thing to live with, but as difficult as it may be for the patient, it is often even more strenuous for the caregiver. Now, however, there is someone there to lend a helping hand. Memorial Hospital Pembroke and The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation have teamed up to launch the latest Leeza’s Place.

With both her grandmother and mother affected by Alzheimer’s disease, television personality Leeza Gibbons was no stranger to the world of memory disorders. Even though she was distraught from the loss of her grandmother and the diagnosis of her mother, Gibbons wanted to take action.

"Leeza made a promise to her mom to make sense out of this situation which doesn’t really make sense at all," said Jamie Huysman, Executive Director/Co-Founder of The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation.    

In 2002, Gibbons founded the South Florida-based Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping families affected by any cognitive disorder including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, strokes and more. The Foundation’s main venture is the development of Leeza’s Place.

At Leeza’s Place, Leeza Care advocates use an intergenerational approach to help caregivers, loved ones and the newly-diagnosed through the ordeal of a memory disorder. At the center of Leeza’s Place is a simple philosophy consisting of The Three E’s: Education, Empowerment and Energy.

Education is the first step for guests at Leeza’s Place. Through the program’s library, guests are able to inform themselves about their loved ones’ disease through books, DVDs and computers. The Leeza’s Place staff will work with caregivers in guiding them to ensure they are educated about the disease and know how to continue to access information as needed.

The next phase is Empowerment. Through crafts, scrapbooking, journaling and other activities, guests are able to come to terms with their loved one’s memory disorder and express their thoughts.

It is in the Empowerment part of Leeza’s Place that guests can partake in one of the most innovative aspects of the program. Leeza’s Memory Television, or LMTV, families are able to script, produce, design and film a memoir with the affected person. This way, the family is able to honor their loved one, and the patient is able to ensure that they will be remembered.

Once guests are educated and empowered, they move on to the Energy part of the program, which is designed to keep caregivers well-grounded. Since at some point memory patients are unaware of their own health needs and are unable to help themselves, the burden frequently falls completely on the caregivers. Oftentimes, caregivers are so overwhelmed by the hard work and emotional issues associated with memory disorders that they overlook their own health. Whether carving out some private time at home or going out to a play, the team members at Leeza’s Place emphasize the importance of taking time to breathe.

"We’ve seen that the caregivers basically give their lives up taking care of their loved ones," Huysman said. "If they don’t take care of themselves, if they aren’t educated, empowered and energized for the journey ahead, they tend to lose themselves."           

With a comprehensive neurological disorder program, the administration at Memorial Hospital Pembroke saw the need to add support services for the caregivers of their memory patients.

At the same time, Huysman and his team were reaching out to hospitals to develop Leeza’s Place.

"We decided to do Leeza’s Place and take it to hospitals because we’ve seen that they are really the epicenter of the community," Huysman said.

A partnership between Memorial Hospital Pembroke and Leeza’s Place seemed like a natural thing to do.

According to Martha Garcia, RN, Memorial Hospital Pembroke’s administrator, about 30 percent of Americans will somehow be affected by a memory disorder.

"This is a place where people will feel that someone will understand what they are going through and will be able to help them cope with this difficult journey," Garcia said.

Through its Memory Center, Memorial Hospital Pembroke provides a wide range of services for patients suffering from memory disorders. Now, by partnering with The Leeza Gibbons Foundation, both the patients and the caregivers will be able to seek the help they need in managing their memory disorder.

"Our Memory Center does a very good job of helping the patients who have memory disorders," Garcia said. "What Leeza’s Place is going to do is augment that service and improve it by offering a program that is really for the caregivers of those patients."

Leeza’s Place at Memorial Hospital Pembroke is located at 2261 N. University Drive, Suite 103. More information can be accessed at www.mhs.net, www.leezasplace.org or by calling (954) 967-7240.
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