Joan Lunden is putting on a Thanksgiving feast of “four tables for 43 people. I married a man with a very, very large extended family,” says the author-speaker-broadcaster and former “Good Morning, America” host. “They are so lucky he married me. I love to have our home be the center for every celebration, and I approach them the way I approach everything. I prepare ahead of time, when I can, so I don’t have to do everything at the last minute.”
Lunden carries her think-ahead philosophy into more serious realms on her four-day “Taking Care With Joan Lunden” series, launching today (11/22) on Retirement Living TV, the online/syndicated TV offering being carried by numerous Comcast stations. A primer for caregivers, the series offers information ranging from making homes user-friendly for people in wheelchairs, to assisted living options and resources, to financial considerations. Having faced a crises with her own mother’s living situation,
Lunden says she jumped at the chance to do a show that would raise viewers’ awareness and help them prepare so as not to be caught off-guard when a loved one can no longer live independently.
“My mom is actually enjoying good health for a 91-year-old; she doesn’t have any chronic illness,” she says. “The last 20 years, I took care of my mom and brother financially. My brother had type 2 diabetes that over the course of his lifetime ravaged his body to the point he wasn’t able to be employed. They shared a condo and great companionship until a few years ago, when he passed away suddenly. I flew out to California to be with my mother and figure out what to do. We had nobody to ask questions of. This is what happens to American families. This is like the elephant sitting in the middle of the living room. I’m so glad this series is on Thanksgiving week when families are together. I want to be in anyone’s face saying, ‘If you do not discuss this, it will end up in your lap and it will be much more difficult to put a plan in place.’ This is the next big health care crisis.”
Joan says her mother, Gladyce, chose to continue living in California instead of moving East with her. “It’s for the best. I have young kids running around and I’m often away traveling,” she says, referring to her and husband Jeff Konigsberg’s five-year-old and seven-year-old sets of twins. Gladyce has needed increasing amounts of assistance “as her dementia has increased and her sense of balance has gotten worse. She’s gone from senior living to assisted living, to memory care, to a small care private home — where, as I wrote on my blog, she’s the reigning bingo champion. She’s had a boost of vitality since [her friend] Joe moved in. A healthy dose of companionship is worth bottles of medicine.”