Caregivers ‘Day Of Hope’ Shares Common Experiences

By  //  July 26, 2012

'Take Your Oxygen First'

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – More than 100 people packed Health First’s The Center For Family Caregivers to hear authors Dr. Jamie Huysman and Dr. Rosemary Laird offer “A Day Of Hope” for caregivers Thursday.

Dr. Jamie Huysman, left, and Dr. Rosemary Laird led the "Day of Hope" Caregivers Conference at Helath First The Center For Family Caregivers in Melbourne on Thursday. (Image by Ed Pierce)

The public conference provided inspiration and tips for those who offer care to elderly family members and focused upon ideas developed from the book they co-authored along with celebrity Leeza Gibbons called “Take Your Oxygen First.”

The book explores how to take best care of yourself while meeting the challenges of giving care to another and combines medical, nutritional, psychological and spiritual guidance and advice for caregivers while detailing Gibbons personal struggle with caring for an aging mother with dementia.

“This is our first time doing this in Brevard,” said Laird, who serves as medical director of Health First’s Aging Institute and The Center For Family Caregivers. “I am amazed at how many people turned out for this today.”

Leeza Gibbons

Important aspect

Laird outlined for participants why taking care of themselves is the most important and prominent aspect of caregiving.

“Life comes with challenges, but it’s up to us to find positive ways to overcome those challenges,” she said. “It’s been shown that 50 percent of caregivers develop psychological distress and we all need to be aware of the warning signs of caregiver burnout.”

She started her presentation by asking those in attendance to take a deep breath, as in “Take Your Oxygen First.”

“That’s the best way to start,” Laird said.

Huysman, who co-founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, is the CEO of International Caregivers Network and a renowned speaker about caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue and addictions, told the audience that the book is powerful and he’s found it’s been helpful to many.

“Our book has an end game,” Huysman said. “We can live a life of attraction instead of emotion. It’s all about taking care of your mind, your body and your soul.”

He said caregivers often tend to bottle up their experiences and carry a heavy burden all by themselves.

“Sometimes we feel like our lives are being stolen from us,” he said. “We deny that we are vulnerable. Caregivers are often so busy they forget to take care of themselves. Unrealistic expectations are the seeds of resentment and cancer of the caregiver’s soul is isolation.”

Co-Authors of the book "Take Your Oxygen First" appeared at a caregivers conference in Melbourne on Thursday. (Image courtesy The Center For Family Caregivers)

Overcoming burnout

Huysman said healing from caregiver burnout is the realization that you have become aware that what you are doing to yourself is harmful.

“You are no longer naïve, you have to transform,” he said. “This is really all about yourself.”

He urged caregivers to not make assumptions, to hold ongoing family conferences, not to isolate and not to take anything personally.

“You must be able to plan ahead and have contingency plans,” Huysman said. “And we can’t fall prey to shame and stigma. We all should use the vast amount of community resources available to us, honor our sacred memories and most importantly, we need to try to find humor in every place or situation we can.”

Both Laird and Huysman said events like the “Day of Hope” are important because they draw together ordinary people bound by the common experience of caring for others.

“This Day of Hope is to be able to find a transformative path to let go,” Huysman said. “There’s no going it alone here.”

For more information about Health First’s The Center For Family Caregivers, call 321-434-7625 or visit