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AARP’s ‘Care to Laugh’ Town Hall Provided Humor and Much-Needed Support for Caregivers

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, financial guru Jean Chatzky and other experts tackled emotional, medical, financial aspects of caregiving

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Comedian Jesus Trejo hosted AARP's first town hall dedicated to caregiving.

Family caregivers got the chance to laugh and receive some expert tips and advice at “Care to Laugh: Juggling Caregiving With Humor and Help,” AARP’s first town hall dedicated to the complicated issues surrounding caring for loved ones and friends. Host and comedian Jesus Trejo — the subject of AARP’s 2018 documentary Care to Laugh and a millennial caregiver for both his parents — performed his caregiving-based stand-up comedy for the live and streaming audience of thousands, followed by a Q&A roundtable with featured experts.

Watch the 'Care to Laugh' Town Hall

AARP members can log in and watch here.

The Las Vegas event allowed caregivers to pose questions to renowned pros including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, AARP financial ambassador and author Jean Chatzky and clinical social worker Lori Nisson. Topics ranged from issues that impact the “heart” (the emotional and social aspects of caregiving) to those related to “health” (navigating medical systems, advocating and coordinating care) and the “wallet” (dealing with the costs of care, holding down a job and working with insurance, Medicare or Medicaid).

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Here are a few of the questions the experts tackled.

Jill from South Carolina: My mother has the start of dementia, and I am trying to navigate her Medicare plan. How does Medicare support caregivers of people with dementia?

Secretary Becerra: Medicare recently instituted a new policy that allows us to pay doctors to provide family members with the caregiver training that they’ll need so they know that they’re doing the right thing for their family member who is having issues with dementia and other issues like Alzheimer’s.

In July, we announced also a policy called GUIDE, an improved dementia experience model, which gives people who are providers of care a better idea of what resources are available to them and also gives them some of that instruction and training, because … we’re seeing this more and more in homes and families where they are taking the responsibility to try to help care for their loved ones as long as possible.

If you log on to our Medicare website, you’ll be able to find a lot of this information.

Erin from Las Vegas: I live with my mom. And you know I love Mom dearly, but these past couple of weeks, especially with Thanksgiving, she’s just challenging me on every decision I make, kind of getting on my nerves. How do I get a little more patient?

Dr. Sherry Blake: One of the things you have to understand up front is not that they’re giving you a hard time. They’re actually having a hard time … and given that they’re having a hard time, you don’t take it personally.

Just make sure you’re caring for yourself, so your patience [level] is normal. It’s very normal to be impatient, and it’s easy when you’re exhausted and tired.

Lori Nisson: There isn’t a harder job than caregiving. Neither of you asked for the situation. So try to lead with empathy. …

It’s important to make sure that you’re making time for yourself — whether you’re asking for help, which is a tough thing to do — and also really balancing your own needs, because as we know, caregivers burn out if they don’t get their own needs met and get support.

Jean Chatzy: There’s been a lot of research on what helps us sort of release that stress and get over it. And above all, exercise. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and run 10 miles. Just get out and walk a little bit and breathe some fresh air and give yourself a little bit of space.

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Alex from Long Island: I am burnt out and exhausted and need my siblings to step in. How do I know where to draw the line of “I can do this much and no more.” And how can I get them to help?

Dr. Sherry Blake: Let them know your limitations and help them understand that you need help. … Then ask what they can do and what they will be willing to do. One of the things I have to say is you cannot make your siblings do anything. So, manage your expectations.

If you have siblings that really [weren’t] helpful before your loved ones got ill, don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Understand that they may not change their behavior, but you’re only in control of yourself.

Jean Chatzky: And that goes double when you’re talking about the money. There are often situations where there is one person that is leading, one person taking point, and one person is largely paying for it. And you need to directly ask your siblings for what you need and what you expect from them in order to facilitate continuing this arrangement.

Lori Nisson: And I think if there is conflict, that’s often a really good time to bring in someone else to really help the situation, whether it’s the medical provider, a social worker, a care manager, a nurse, even clergy, to really help smooth over the situation kind of share the facts and try to engage the whole family as a team.

For more on the event and additional tools and resources, go to Or connect with caregiving peers on the free, private AARP Family Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook.

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