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Leeza Gibbons Gets Candid About Being A Caregiver and Caring For Herself (EXCLUSIVE)

Learn about the "five more" strategy that keeps her joyful

Emmy-winner, wife, mother and mental health advocate Leeza Gibbons is known for her bright smile and upbeat personality on Entertainment Tonight and her daytime talk show, Leeza — but the popular host, author and motivational speaker has had to find balance in her life more than once.

Like so many others, she and her family have had to adapt to caregiving. After years of taking care of her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, and her eventual passing, Gibbons fulfilled her promise to her mom and began a nonprofit, Leeza’s Care Connection, to serve as a support system for caregivers.

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“I had promised my mom that I would tell her story and make it count,” Leeza Gibbons told Woman’s World during a heartfelt interview for our latest cover. “She wanted her life to matter — we all do. So her story has become a model for empowering those who take care of their loved ones and others. You shouldn’t have to put your life on hold because you’re caring for someone you love.”

Leeza Gibbons Woman's World
Woman’s World

Gibbons’ passion for health and wellness began long before her mother’s diagnosis, but brain health has since become the cornerstone of the entertainer’s life. Woman’s World spoke to Leeza about how she keeps healthy, energized and focused and how she’s managed to overcome stress and find healing.

Woman’s World (WW): You always seem to handle challenges in life with an upbeat attitude. What’s the most recent challenge that you faced?

Leeza Gibbons: My mother-in-law has faced some major health challenges in the past couple of years. She had a stroke and then a serious bout with pneumonia. It challenged us as a family to pull together and to focus on strength.

Thinking that my mother-in-law would pass and worrying about my husband, wanting to take care of his emotional needs during that time — there was a real fear.

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WW: Can you speak about some of the things you’ve done to help other caregivers?

Leeza Gibbons: My ongoing lifetime dream is to establish what I call the HUGS program. It stands for Helping U Grow Strong, and it has classes all across the country to support those who are new to caregiving.

HUGS is a peer-to-peer mentoring program utilizing our proprietary courses designed to take what I call FCTAs — former caregivers turned advocates — and match them up with people who are new caregivers.

Leeza Gibbons, 2016
Leeza Gibbons in 2016Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty

WW: What other kind of charity work have you been doing?

Leeza Gibbons: Over the years, we opened many foundation sites, but we have minimized our brick and mortar locations to just our flagship ones in South Carolina, my home state, and Los Angeles, my kids’ hometown where I now live.

Our other outreach is through our standalone programs that we created, which exist in other communities. I created the HUGS program when I realized there was a great need for peer mentors for people who have stepped into the role of caring. The only people who can really answer those questions and be that witness for your pain are people that have been there. Right now, we have our program in five states and we’re mounting up right now for others.

WW: How does the HUGS program differ from the Leeza Memory Care centers?

Leeza Gibbons: With the Leeza Care Connections, it’s not about having more locations but having more impact, and the way we figured we could have the most impact was by training the trainers and creating the next generation of support.  

I wrote the curriculum and it’s a six-week course or a shorter, hybrid, virtual and in-person course too. We’re basically focusing on a lot of personal growth, self-help and how to improve your relationships in life overall by being more empathetic, becoming a better listener and engaging in better communication skills. We’re just now seeing the power of this mentor program.

WW: So you help caregivers, but how do you help yourself stay healthy and focused?

Leeza Gibbons: I have a “five more” strategy — laugh more, move more, plan more, break more and connect more. I’ve built in little spots around the house where I keep my 5-pound dumbbells and exercise bands nearby, so if I’m in the kitchen, I’ll move, if I’m in my bedroom, I’ll move.

Whenever I’m stuck intellectually or when I hit a snag at work, I move more. A good 5-minute walk outside is a nice way to break down the mental or emotional cobwebs. As for plan more, it may be something as simple as planning to clean out the closet.

Connect could be meeting a friend for lunch. Laughing more is a brilliant and accessible strategy for real mental benefits. Laughter is a quick and easy release. We undervalue the power of laughter. It boosts your mood and strengthens your immune system.  

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Leeza Gibbons, 2017
Leeza Gibbons in 2017Noel Vasquez/Getty

WW: You’ve proven yourself in so many different fields. To what do you attribute your success in your personal and professional life?

Leeza Gibbons: I think that the biggest thing that keeps me forward-focused is not shying away from trying. You don’t stop trying because you’re afraid you’re going to fail. You don’t stop dreaming because you cannot fathom how those dreams will materialize.

You just keep moving forward. Whether it’s business or personal life, or your path to be the most physically fit and the most beautiful version of yourself, the best thing that can be said about anyone is how hard you try and if you’re doing that, then your past failures are just practice for the current moment.

The television host in 2019
Leeza Gibbons in 2019Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

WW: Where do you find your own peace and happiness?

Leeza Gibbons: I wake up with energy and I’ve got joy; I’m not depressed. But as our mothers told us, physical beauty fades and internal beauty lasts. Your relationship with that different looking body in the mirror means you have to adjust, and I have.

I find happiness. Peace and happiness is a natural byproduct of the effort that goes into caring. When you care about someone or when you care about doing something that matters to you, it fuels the most essential part of your being. I’ve learned I can’t always make things better or accomplish a goal, but the effort brings happiness and in knowing that comes my peace.

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