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AARP Taps Hollywood to Spotlight Family Caregivers

Comedian Jeff Ross (left), a member of the Entertainment Industry Commission on Caregiving, chats with comedian Jesus Trejo about his time as a caregiver.

En español | AARP is harnessing the star power of television and film to shine a light on the millions of unpaid family members taking care of their loved ones around the country.

More than 30 Hollywood celebrities, writers, producers and executives have signed on to help AARP raise awareness about the nation’s family caregivers, and the challenges they face, through a new collaboration with entertainment industry nonprofit The Creative Coalition.

Calling themselves the Entertainment Industry Commission on Caregiving, the celebrities aim to bring the work of caregivers “out of the shadows” and use “the power of the arts to educate, motivate and activate the American public behind this issue,” Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk said in a news release announcing the commission on Tuesday.

Like many of the celebrities involved in the project, commission chairwoman Yvette Nicole Brown, who played Shirley Bennett in the NBC sitcom Community, is motivated by her own experience.

“As a caregiver for my own father, I know what it’s like to feel that I’m facing this challenge alone,” she said in the release. She added that the commission is “an opportunity to give voice to millions of Americans, like myself, who are facing the overwhelming task of being a family caregiver.”

Other commission members include actors Tim Daly (Wings and Madam Secretary), Dulé Hill (The West Wing and The Wonder Years), Marg Helgenberger (CSI:Vegas) and Patrick J. Adams (Suits). Comedian Jeff Ross, another commission member, recently spoke about caring for his grandfather as part of AARP’s Care to Laugh, a town hall event dedicated to caregiving.

“The one thing I can tell you from my time as a caregiver is you’ll look back on that time with pride. You go, ‘Hmm. Man, that was tough at the time, but I’m really glad I did that,’ ” he said in a conversation with fellow comedian and caregiver Jesus Trejo. “Because it’s the most human thing you can do.”

AARP hopes that by hearing from their favorite TV personalities, people caring for loved ones will feel seen and want to learn more about resources available to help them, said Bob Stephen, AARP’s vice president for health security programming. He cited a recent AARP survey showing 78 percent of caregivers watch TV and movies to spend time with the person they’re caring for and 85 percent use it to relax and relieve stress.

Other goals for the commission include increasing representation for caregivers in television programming and inviting celebrities to share their caregiving experiences with Congress to advocate for better support, Stephen said.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our nation’s long-term care system, providing an estimated $600 billion in unpaid care each year, but their backs are breaking,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer. “The Entertainment Industry Commission on Caregiving will help raise recognition and support for this invisible army of 48 million caregivers who have long labored in obscurity.”

Read more about the collaboration, and learn about AARP’s resources for family caregivers.

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