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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Leeza Gibbons
Aired December 1, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Leeza Gibbons on her fight to save her mom and millions of others from Alzheimer's Disease, on separating from her husband of 14 years and more, an intense, emotional hour with Leeza Gibbons. We'll take you calls too next on LARRY KING LIVE.
There are some people who in life improve the room when they walk into the room. Our guest is one of those people, Leeza Gibbons, easy to listen to and easy on the eye. TV and radio personality and producer, current host of radio's "Leeza Live" on the Westwood 1 Network, has been called a social entrepreneur, founder of the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, is also the author of a book.
It's been out a little while called "Scrapbooking Traditions," which is designed -- there you see its cover, it's designed especially for people affected by Alzheimer's Disease and we'll get to it in just a bit. What do they mean by social entrepreneur? What does that mean?
LEEZA GIBBONS: Oh, wow, it's a lovely compliment isn't it?
KING: What are you?
GIBBONS: Well, I hope it means that I'm looking for with my non- profit work, as you do, I'm looking for ways to encourage people to take custody of their lives and effect the change in the areas that they really care about.
And, for me right now that's memory disorder. It's looking out for caregivers and honoring that most difficult challenging thing, which is to take care of another person in life.
KING: And the hardest kind of caregiving is for an Alzheimer's patient, is it not?
GIBBONS: Well, oh my gosh, with our Memory Foundation...
KING: That's the hardest.
GIBBONS: You know, many people say so and I can say from my own experience my mom, as you know, is in the very end stages of this cruel disease, which doesn't just take, Larry, the diagnosed person. It wants the whole family and it starts to kind of steal and unravel financially and emotionally and psychologically. You fall apart. So, yes, I think that caregiving is, you know, it's relentless.
KING: We all lived through it with my friend Nancy Reagan.
GIBBONS: Yes, I know.
KING: And what she went through and his letter and the public understanding of it grew through that don't you think?
GIBBONS: I think we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Reagans because really, Larry, can you remember much prior to that where we even said the A word? We just didn't say it. And I think because people believe it's hopeless but whether it's any cognitive deficit that comes about for any reason when your memory is gone that's our soul print.
That's who we are. I mean, you know, the places that we went in the world and who we loved and how we spent our time. And when that begins to fade, when you begin to have this death in slow motion you really begin to question all those existential things like what's it about?
KING: I want to get to that a lot, so let's discuss first things first.
GIBBONS: First things first, Larry.
KING: How have you coped with a public divorce? When you're a public person divorce is public, so the country knew Leeza Gibbons was getting divorced.
GIBBONS: Well, my husband and...
KING: Does that double the plight?
GIBBONS: You know, my husband and I are separated and there's a lot of pain certainly involved in that but there's the joy of exploration. There's the commitment to finding what's real and true. There is the serenity in knowing that our kids are thriving.
Steve and I are really committed to co-parenting our kids and we're getting along great. There's nothing nasty going on. So, the fact that it may be reported clearly there are many more scandalous things to talk about than my separation.
And, you know like most people, like you at many times, I think you just don't, you create your own little safe cocoon within your family and that's -- that's pretty impenetrable if it's good stuff.
KING: If you do it right, the kids are OK, right?
GIBBONS: You know, knock on wood my kids are thriving. Our kids are happy and we try to be honest with them and true with them and we want them to grow up knowing that, you know, life is challenging and sometimes it doesn't work out the way we intended. And, right now we're really, I don't know what's going to happen but we're really committed to the process.
KING: Can you be friends when you were lovers? GIBBONS: Oh, yes, yes. Aren't you friends with anyone that you were intimate with before?
KING: Yes, but isn't it hard to maintain that? I mean you're around him all the time, right, because you see him a lot (INAUDIBLE).
GIBBONS: But, you know, the real definition though of intimacy is when you share a piece of your soul and when you make children with somebody, when you have a life with somebody that doesn't go away.
And, I think that you've given away a part of yourself that you don't ever want to bring back because it's -- that's how you grow and a heart grows in, you know, capacity to what is needed of it so I think you can.
KING: Are you out in the dating world?
GIBBONS: Oh, my gosh, I laugh because it's so -- no.
GIBBONS: I mean maybe I shouldn't have laughed. Was that a defensive laugh?
KING: It was.
GIBBONS: It's not a funny concept I suppose but I'm not...
KING: Why would that be funny to you?
GIBBONS: I'm not -- I'm not ready.
KING: You're beautiful.
GIBBONS: Thank you but I'm not -- that's not where my heart is right now. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to be the best me and I think that sometimes with women and with men and I bet a lot of people watching right now are in relationships where they feel they have forgotten who they are or they're disappearing or the relationship is somehow not fulfilling. And, you can attract what you don't have and so I'm really trying to look at making sure that I'm whole.
KING: So, if you're asked out, you're saying no?
GIBBONS: Well, I haven't come across that.
KING: You haven't been asked out?
GIBBONS: No. I think people understand the vibe that you put out in the world and I'm -- I'm certainly not -- I'm not there.
KING: So, you're devoting your time to the kids and your radio show right?
GIBBONS: Yes, I mean I have a rich, full, wonderful life like, you know, it's populated with a lot of really great things and the kids are first and I have work that I love and I have this foundation that is my passion. I'm incredibly, incredibly blessed and I have -- and I have Steve who is being supportive through all of it. You know, we want to cheer each other on.
KING: You call it the Memory Foundation?
GIBBONS: Yes, it's a memory foundation because we don't just look at Alzheimer's disease and really our goal is to create an oasis for caregivers. So, we've opened across the country what we call Leeza's Place and Leeza's Place is this safe, intimate living room setting where caregivers can go and get nourished, get educated, get empowered and really get energized because it's such a depleting process.
KING: Who runs the places?
GIBBONS: They are really run by -- there's a care advocate on site and each community kind of owns these centers.
KING: Who trains them?
GIBBONS: Our foundation trains them, our executive director and we're affiliated with hospital systems. We work with other non- profits but we don't -- we aren't giving medical treatment. We aren't diagnosing. We're offering psycho-social support.
And we have many wonderful programs, memory television, which is something very unique, our scrapbooking that we do which really empowers those who are losing their memories to have the dignity and to feel that they're so capable at a time when they're losing their ability.
KING: We're all losing our memory right? In fact, you start memory loss in your teens.
GIBBONS: That's -- that is -- that is what they say and we're learning so much more about it. Every day there's a new report about how we can retain our -- our functioning and our cognitive abilities. So, but I suppose if you're to be, you know, bottom line about it you're probably right Larry.
KING: No magic pill though?
GIBBONS: There's no magic pill. You know, with cancer, with any disease process, with heart disease, you know, the things that you look at and care about so, we know inflammation is an enemy, so an anti-inflammatory diet is probably helpful. There are the new studies that I know you've been reading about and many of your viewers are probably interested in what about cholesterol drugs?
KING: Yes, Lipitor might help prevent Alzheimer's, might help the Alzheimer patient.
KING: Lipitor and other statins.
GIBBONS: And, you know, I asked my doctor about it a while ago and said, look, you know, I've got two generations of women prophylactically should I be taking Lipitor? And we made the choice that I would.
Now that doesn't mean it's right for everybody and there's more testing and there are no guarantees but I do try to stay on top of, you know, memory enhancing options.
KING: What do you mean two generations?
GIBBONS: My grandmother died of this disease and now my mom and so my mother knew it. She knew it just like I know it and yet we still didn't want to see it and we still weren't prepared and my dad still wasn't covered in terms of, you know financial things. It just broke into our lives like a shock.
KING: How old is mom?
GIBBONS: Mom is now 69, young.
KING: That's all?
GIBBONS: Young and she began -- you know what, Larry, she started showing symptoms in her late 50s. People talk about this and I think one of the reasons why we don't get as much support as we need is there's a belief that, oh well it's for old people. You're going to lose your memory anyway and there's nothing you can do. Well, that's just so not true. Our mantra is to get on top of it early.
KING: We'll pick up from there in a minute. We'll be right back with Leeza Gibbons. We'll include your phone calls in this hour. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just hope that everybody if you have Alzheimer's don't hide it. You know go out and tell your friends, yes, I have a problem and they will understand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though my grandmother wouldn't, like doesn't want my mother just spending all of her time on this my mom still does spend all of her time and effort. She -- she probably would just quit her job and lose everything right now just to do this and I am behind her every step.
GIBBONS: I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Leeza Gibbons of the Memory Foundation. All right, your grandmother died of it so your mother knew what your grandmother died of. Did she expect it? GIBBONS: Expect it?
KING: Did she say "I'm going to get Alzheimer's"?
GIBBONS: No, she didn't and I think she would have never wanted us to worry and my dad, which is very common, would cover for her and that's why diagnosis comes so late because couples kind of have this dance and people don't want anyone to worry and they don't want to face it. So, the repetitive behaviors, the being disoriented in a crowd, socially not feeling quite so comfortable those things we would just write off to, you know mom's drinking too much.
I really thought, OK, we got to have this intervention. Mom's an alcoholic. She would do anything in the world for us kids so we're going to have to step in. And my mother, I have to laugh, there are so many things you really have to have a sense of humor about it.
My mom, I was on the phone, my family is in South Carolina and we're having this big discussion. My mother picks up the other line. "Leeza Kim, I know what you're doing. I know you're going to send me to that Henry Ford" because we were talking about sending her to the Betty Ford Center for alcoholism.
KING: Was she a drinker?
GIBBONS: I think she began to self medicate as happens a lot.
KING: What was the first sign to you?
GIBBONS: Well, I remember with my granny the first sign was my granny made these little brown jugs, these biscuits that she would put her thumb in and we'd put cane patch syrup in these biscuits.
KING: You're from South Carolina.
GIBBONS: Being a good southerner that I am. And, granny one time couldn't find the biscuits and she's looking in the oven and just couldn't find them. She had taken them and they were like in the dresser drawer in the bedroom. And I thought, well, OK, granny's a little odd but that was my first sign of thinking what's up with granny?
With my mom, because we were so close, when she came out for a visit and she wasn't being affectionate with the kids and she lived her entire life for grandkids. And, we went out to lunch and there was a convertible. I was paying the bill and it's an outdoor restaurant/cafe and my mother went and got in the back seat of this open convertible and it wasn't our car. There were things like that.
KING: How does it get diagnosed? How do they know it's not senility, it's not just aging? How do they know it's Alzheimer's?
GIBBONS: Well, I mean I certainly can't speak as a medical professional but as a family member what I learned and what I know of from the medical directors that work with us it really is a diagnosis of exclusion and sometimes... KING: Do they scan the brain?
GIBBONS: Well you can scan the brain but there's a lot of controversy over what you learn. There is some belief that if you scanned your brain early on for people that go on to develop Alzheimer's (INAUDIBLE) and they begin to shrink and that may be a precursor.
There also are some theories about hot areas of the brain. But, you know, basically doctors will tell you that they're not really trained to diagnose Alzheimer's and, you know, in many cases a general practitioner.
KING: Neurologists treat it right?
GIBBONS: Correct and so that's why we tell people to try not to be afraid of it because meds are more effective in the early stages. You can begin to make your wishes known and get on top of your care and manage your life.
Like with mom we took everything of color out of her wardrobe. We only put solid block colors so she could wear anything. We tried to make it so she could be independent for as long as she could.
KING: But it doesn't get better right? You can stave off things.
GIBBONS: You can manage your risk we believe. You can delay the onset of symptoms we believe. And you can plateau we believe. But you don't come back from it.
KING: What do you die of?
KING: You said your grandmother died of Alzheimer's.
GIBBONS: I, you know...
KING: Did she die of Alzheimer's or pneumonia?
GIBBONS: In many cases what happens is, and again I'm even uncomfortable speaking of this, I'll just tell you my personal story is that the brain would just really, parts of the brain would begin to shut down bit by bit and then the brain would stop telling you to breathe or stop telling you to chew or swallow. You couldn't swallow.
KING: It instructs everything you do.
GIBBONS: So, since it informs everything as bits and bits and eaten up and taken over by the (INAUDIBLE) you disappear.
KING: When it started to go bad with your mom what are the things that just started really to scare you?
GIBBONS: Well, missing her. I started to miss her right away because the mother that I grew up with was gone. Most caregivers and we are a resource for caregivers, it's what our Web site is about, it's what Leeza's Place is about, most caregivers will tell you that it's such a scary situation because your relationship changes and like a husband doesn't any longer have that wife.
You have -- you're really sort of with a stranger who becomes dependent, who may become hostile, who may become angry. You may get resentful as the caregiver and we isolate because we're ashamed and regretfully there's stigma. So that's a big part of our message is to take away the shame and stigma.
KING: Did your mother get scared?
GIBBONS: I'm sure my mother was scared when she put her head on the pillow at night. Larry, my mom was pretty incredible because...
KING: She did public service announcements.
GIBBONS: Oh, man, she faced it head on and she told me -- when I was in the sixth grade there was a talent show at my school and I came home from school crying and saying "I don't have a talent and I can't tap dance and I'm a bad singer and I can't play an instrument. I have no talent."
And, my mother, who I'm sure was just vamping as mothers do, she goes, "Honey, you do. You are a storyteller and I want you to get up there in front of that class and you tell the best story that you possibly can."
And, it's sweet because when my mother knew that this was her disease, she said, "Honey, you're a storyteller and I want you to take the story and I want you to tell it" and that's what I've been doing and I never fail, Larry, to get energized by that instruction.
KING: How advanced is she right now?
GIBBONS: To be honest with you, and I know there are people who would disagree with this or have issue with it but my personal hope is that she can be liberated soon from the disease.
KING: You mean die?
GIBBONS: She never wanted to live on in this condition. She -- she would say "When I can't call you by name, I don't want you to come visit me." Well, I told her I wouldn't promise her that that I was never going to leave her but I understand what she meant and...
KING: She doesn't know you?
GIBBONS: No, it's been a long time. She's vacant and the kids will...
KING: Where is she?
GIBBONS: She's in South Carolina.
KING: In a home?
GIBBONS: She's in a skilled nursing facility. My dad cared for her and he's there twice a day now.
KING: He's OK?
GIBBONS: No, I wouldn't say he's OK. My biggest concern is about caregivers. My mom is at a place where we don't know what she feels but I can see what my dad feels.
KING: By the way what's the Web site?
GIBBONS: Leezasplace.org but if you just remember Leeza all roads will take you there.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Leeza Gibbons. We'll go to your calls at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBONS: It's unacceptable for someone to reach the end of the lives and not to get there with grace and wisdom and a sense of serenity but to get there the way my mom is getting there. And so many of you have seen your loved ones get there with a sense of fear and a sense of confusion. It is simply unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Your mom watching right now wouldn't understand this right?
GIBBONS: Oh, no.
KING: No. When your father for a while took her out socially what would he do? He would tell the people in the restaurant?
GIBBONS: Well, daddy was really cool and I have such respect for him. They would go out and mom would, as many people do, would be inappropriate. She would eat off other people's plates or she would wear something that was not right.
We were at a fund-raiser one night and we couldn't find my mother and I looked in the corner and my mother was ripping her dress off, you know, and we laugh about it now but it's horrifying.
But she would come out ready to go to dinner and have -- she'd have her bra on the outside or something wrong. He'd say, "Honey, you look beautiful. Let's go." And I just thought that was so nice and a lot of people would do things.
Like he would go to places where they knew what was going on but will give a little card saying, you know, "Please be patient, you know, my partner tonight is dealing with memory issues."
KING: What does the caregiver do when the person they love doesn't know them?
GIBBONS: Rely on what was. Know that it's still there uncovered somewhere. A heart never forgets. Love is love and I think it transcends and it transforms but...
KING: Talk to them as if they do comprehend?
GIBBONS: You know, the reason why we encourage people and caregivers to get into the process early is if you're not educated about what's going on you will be, may be very resentful or try to correct someone and say, "But mom, you know, you just told me that." Or, "No, mom, we don't live there anymore." And, you have to join the diagnosed person in their world because they can't join you in yours.
KING: So, you don't correct?
GIBBONS: You don't correct. You just gently redirect like a child.
KING: Why, it has to be asked, why do you show your mother? We never saw the president.
KING: We have not seen Charlton Heston since he made the announcement.
GIBBONS: No, that's true and I respect...
KING: Why do you show your mom?
GIBBONS: ...those two families so much and I think Mrs. Reagan is just an angel on earth, different set of circumstances clearly but this was my mother's wish. She knew she had this disease. She asked me to tell the story. Our entire family, my sister, my brother, my sister-in-law, my husband, our kids we knew what we were doing.
Some people in the beginning thought, well, that's uncomfortable and we don't want to remember your mother like that. That's the point. This is not a pretty disease and it gets cruel and it gets ugly. We need to make it more important. We need to have more support for the caregivers and we need to have more research.
KING: What advances are being made?
GIBBONS: Oh, gosh.
KING: Do governments spend enough?
GIBBONS: I think anybody...
KING: What's enough?
GIBBONS: ...anybody who cares about a cause will tell you no but what we -- what we want to be about is creating enough of a movement and enough of a voice that it can't be denied. And, as the boomers age, you know, we feel that we're entitled to good health to the end of time and so I think we will be noisy enough. We're starting with this memory wall, Larry, that's touring across the country. In fact, this week we're in Washington, D.C. with it. We kick it off in New York.
And, we're working with State Farm on this project to raise awareness about memory disorder but for any caregiver who is taking care of anyone living or past to come out and say with a sense of pride "Here is my little patch on this wall," because it's like a giant scrapbook page. "Here is my inspiration. These are my words. This is my thought."
That was me putting the very first panel on the memory wall in New York honoring my grandmother and my mom and me by the way because none of us is guaranteed tomorrow and so we really need to celebrate these lives and honor these individuals that are doing such beautiful work.
Our goal is to make it, if you aren't in a city where the memory wall travels, which is 12 cities, we will send you for free a kit and you can do your panel and we will make the wall as big as it needs to be to accommodate as many stories.
KING: Just go on the Web site?
GIBBONS: It's all on the Web site. If you go to Leeza's Place it will get you there but S.F. Memory Wall is the Web site.
KING: S.S. Memory Wall?
GIBBONS: S. F. Memory Wall.
KING: S.F. What is cognitive abilities, what does that mean?
GIBBONS: Well, when you're aware of what you're doing and when you have the ability to run your life.
KING: Does your mother get worse every day?
GIBBONS: You know, the mysterious thing about this disease is there are what we call little kisses from the angels and I think it's almost crueler for my dad. She was so sedentary for so long and hospice was brought in, which as you know they usually come in when the end of life is within six months.
GIBBONS: Well, they recently left my mother's care because she -- she had a little blip, not of awareness, not of getting better but suddenly she's mobile and we don't know how long that will last.
So, you know, at the 50th wedding anniversary, which was I guess a year and a half ago, my mom and dad, my mother was already in skilled nursing and we all went -- we didn't know what kind of a day she'd be having but dad bought her a little pink corsage and we were hesitant about what would happen.
But we brought their song, which was "Tennessee Waltz," and we put the music on and my mother was sitting there like this, like she always does pulling at her lip and her clothing and the eyes were darting and then the music came on and she opened up her arms and looked up at my dad and they danced.
And we thought, whoa, that is so deep in her core, you know, so I don't know what she's feeling. That's a little kiss that you have to love at the time. I don't know.
KING: We'll be back with more of Leeza Gibbons. We'll be including your phone calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBONS: The tributes are made of colorful filmstrips that have adhesive on the back. People can embellish them as much as they want or just merely write a phrase, a word, a memory, a photograph, whatever expresses their personal feelings. Then they're put on the wall in a patchwork, scrapbook fashion.
The visual image of all these individual messages is so beautiful and so powerful and exactly what we need to demonstrate right now a sense of community, a sense of unity, a sense of pride.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Leeza Gibbons. More information, leezasplace.org. It's an amazing story. By the way, is there a time usually from diagnosis to death? Is there is an average time?
GIBBONS: Well, the average time, I believe, is seven years. But my granny lived about 20 years.
GIBBONS: It's -- you know, and who knows -- at that time they were saying it was senile dementia and all kinds of other...
KING: ... they don't use those words anymore, right?
GIBBONS: No, not so much. Not so much.
KING: Let's go to calls. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for Leeza Gibbons, the current host of radio's "Leeza Live," on the Westwood One network. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. Larry, big fan of CNN.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: Hello, Leeza.
GIBBONS: Hi, how are you?
CALLER: Fine, how are you? My question to you, being a caregiver for 36 years myself, almost 37, I wanted to ask you how long has your mother been diagnosed and how long you have been staying with her and helping her, and has it taken over most of your life?
GIBBONS: Well, wow, this is coming from someone who understands all of those feelings, don't you? Bless your heart. I tell you what, we encourage caregivers to what we call, take your oxygen first. Because caregivers give and as women especially, and most women are caregivers, we nurture, and that's part of our joy and what we love to do. But it depletes us. And you know, my mother always used to say, if mom ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
Well, if the caregiver's not nourished and doesn't take care of his or her own mental health and physical health, you can't give to the person that needs you so much. To answer your question, being a long-distance caregiver for much of my mom's relationship, in many ways has been easier and some ways much harder.
My brother and my sister and my dad are there. They have to see mom's decline every day. And so part of what we do to help caregivers on our Web site, is we have a life ledger where you can enter your loved one's conditions. Did she eat last night? Did she fall? You can tell caregivers what she likes. She likes classical music, she likes the color blue. And you can stay connected from coast-to-coast.
And thank you for your question and for the work that you do. You know, for people who are wondering, Larry, on our Web site, we have a memory screen and a depression screening. A lot of times people freak out. It may not be Alzheimer's. It may be a condition that is reversible.
It may be dehydration, it may be stress, it may be something with thyroid, or whatever. So this memory screen, it's not a diagnosis, but it will give you a print out, a tool to take to your doctor. You can take it for yourself or for someone that you love or care for. And it will tell you if you fall within normal memory. Like we get a mammogram, we get a bone density. I would hope that everyone would get a baseline for memory as well.
KING: And you can get this by?
GIBBONS: You just go to our Web site, it's free, obviously. All of our services, by the way, are free.
KING: Tell me about -- that necklace must mean something.
GIBBONS: This necklace -- thank you for asking about it. This is "Memories Forever." And I wear it honor of my mom. We have this in our memory store at the Web site. And for many caregivers, or if you just have -- if you've had a beautiful weekend with somebody and you want a girlfriend from college and you want to have that memory forever.
If you have a pet that passed. It's a generic thing, but we designed it for caregivers and specifically to honor people that have passed. So if you're looking for a Christmas gift or -- there are lots of things on the site there, our reflections music CD and memory journals, Christmas ornaments.
KING: That's a nice though, memory.
GIBBONS: Isn't it?
KING: Nice thought. Rancho Mirage, California. Hello?
CALLER: Hello. Thank you very much, Leeza for your incredible energy and your intellect. You are such an inspiration to us as caregivers.
GIBBONS: Oh my gosh, that means the world to me. Thank you.
CALLER: Do you have any plans to extend or expand Leeza's Place for instance, in our Palm Springs area?
GIBBONS: Oh, I love the question. Yes, as a matter of fact, we're working on development there very recently. We're opening in Los Angeles, in Sherman Oaks with the Circle of Care Foundation in the spring, and with the Assistance League here.
We were really far down the line in New Orleans when Katrina hit. So our development there is still going on. And yes, in Palm Springs as well. You know, my goal, and I think the only way to think, is big on this. My one goal to have a Leeza's Place in every county and every state within 10 years. So, that's -- we're moving quickly because the need so great.
KING: What is scrap booking?
GIBBONS: Well, Larry, scrap booking is the coolest.
KING: You keep a scrapbook.
GIBBONS: Oh yes, many.
KING: Why do you look at me like I'm an idiot? Booking? What is scrap booking?
GIBBONS: Scrap booking is memory keeping. That's really what it is. It's creating legacies.
KING: Do your own scrap booking?
GIBBONS: And it's taking something that matters to you and putting it on a page so that it can live on. You can share it with other people. In the case of my mom, I keep her alive that way for my children. I can honor who she was, rather than who she is now.
And I've started making -- I encourage everybody, make a scrapbook page and call it "All About Me." Because your kids will never believe that you ever -- like in my case, that I ever drove race cars or that I ever told funny jokes, or that I ever anything. Had a great pair of legs or whatever. They'll never believe it. So making...
KING: ... your legs are going away, right?
GIBBONS: I could rewrite history and just tell them whatever, right? But scrap booking is really important for people's memories who are failing. It really empowers them.
KING: Phoenix, Arizona, hello?
CALLER: Hello. I was concerned about knowing the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's. Because my mother -- even though she was very lucid and knew me and knew how to get to her room and everything, when she died, they diagnosed her with dementia.
CALLER: Which was upsetting to me because I didn't see her that way.
GIBBONS: Well, it's a big question. Honestly, I'm not a qualified person to answer it, but I can tell you that Alzheimer's is the leading form of dementia. And so, whatever the doctors -- unless they did an autopsy -- did they do an autopsy?
KING: Did they do an autopsy?
KING: That would have helped, right?
GIBBONS: Well, then I wonder if they would really know for sure. But for you, what's important is, I would think -- you know, we want closure, don't we? And we want answers. And we want reasons for things. And I think that does make us feel better. That's why we stress education.
KING: How can you afford to do all of this?
GIBBONS: What do you mean afford?
KING: I mean, it costs money, right? To set up a foundation.
GIBBONS: Well, you know, it's an emotional investment. It's an investment of time.
KING: You still have your cosmetic line or your jewelry line?
GIBBONS: Yes, in fact, the scrap booking all funds the foundation. And obviously, we have our products, like our necklace that we developed that fund the foundation.
They're all supported by local communities, too, once they're opened, which is really important because that way people own that neighborhood and that environment. It really does -- while they're standardized from coast-to-coast, they do reflect -- like in Melbourne, Florida, we have the Heath First Leeza's Place and it's vibrant and alive, and it's different from the Park Slope Leeza's Place in Brooklyn. So they take on their own personalities.
KING: We'll be right back with more Leeza Gibbons, doing extraordinary things. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBONS: When our family found out mom had Alzheimer's disease, we were devastated and frightened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe she knows who I am today.
GIBBONS: What would happen to her and to us as this disease took its toll? It was hard it find a place for information, a place for support. Well now there is a place, Leeza's Place. Leeza's Place is designed so that we hope you feel welcome and safe. And the minute you come in, you feel like a guest in the living room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: By the way, watch Saturday night's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We do a whole hour on St. Jude's Hospital. Marlo Thomas is here, with some children from the hospital. It's the only hospital that has never sent a bill. It has no accounting department. Watch that.
GIBBONS: Marlo is wonderfully inspiring, isn't she? You talk about somebody living in their destiny.
KING: You're not kidding. A father's dream.
KING: Kingston, Ontario with Leeza Gibbons. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: And Leeza, I want to applaud your strength and your frankness in this discussion.
GIBBONS: Thank you.
CALLER: And I would like to ask, I called in before the piece about the wall.
CALLER: And I just wanted to ask, what the common person, the regular ordinary person can do to support the Alzheimer's movement and increase support or whatever -- however you care to describe it? GIBBONS: Well, you're doing it, first of all, by your willingness to talk about it. I think that story telling is at the core of this, building awareness. And in conjunction with the awareness, of course we need to raise money, because families need help right now. We need to offer a lot of comfort and care while we're on the way to a cure.
So, please do go to LeezasPlace.org, and you will find information about what we're doing and about other great nonprofits. The Alzheimer's Association, with whom I've worked for a long time, the AFA, so many others, the Parkinson's group, and MS and stroke and brain trauma, all those related interests. I think answers for one will give us answers for each other. But the Memory Wall, if it's not in a city near you -- and you're in Portland, is that right?
KING: Kingston, Ontario.
GIBBONS: Kingston, I'm sorry. Well, we're not coming to Kingston, but if you just write to us, we will send you out a tribute kit, because I would love for your voice to be there next to other people.
KING: Where do they write? They go to the Web site or is there...
GIBBONS: Yes, just go to our Web site, and we will mail the kit out to you for free. And there is also a phone number where you can call, and we'd love to send it to you.
KING: Do you have the number?
GIBBONS: My dream -- if you just dial 1-888-OK-LEEZA, you will get hooked up with everything that you need to know.
And my dream is that the Memory Wall becomes so big that it's like the AIDS quilt was, which I think was a turning point in that disease.
KING: It was. Whoever came up with the AIDS quilt was brilliant.
GIBBONS: Because it was a sense of pride. We need a sense of celebration for this community. We need to get out of the dark and out of the insulation, and we need to really honor that memories matter. So I hope you will get the kit.
KING: That toll-free is 888, what?
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, hello.
GARY BARG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "TODAY'S CAREGIVER" MAGAZINE: Hi, Larry. Hi, Leeza. KING: Hi.
GIBBONS: How are you.
BARG: Lisa, hi, it's Gary Barg, how are you.
GIBBONS: Oh, my goodness! Gary Barg, from "Today's Caregiver" magazine. One of the real stars in the caregiving movement. How are you?
BARG: I appreciate it. I love everything you are saying. Thank you for doing it in front of such a wide audience.
You know, the White House Conference on Aging is coming up next week. And I've heard this question a lot. I know you probably really have a great insight in it. What role do you see government playing in supporting caregivers?
KING: Is it on the agenda for next week?
BARG: The White House Conference on Aging is in two weeks.
KING: Yes, but is Alzheimer's on the agenda?
KING: It is?
BARG: Alzheimer's, aging, senior care. You know...
KING: What's the government's role, Leeza?
GIBBONS: Well, you know, I think it's -- it's two-fold, really. I mean, I think, first of all, we need to recognize that caregivers are a huge population, and that we're underserved. We don't really have a voice. We're not getting the services, the psychological support. I mean, that's, as you know, what Leeza's place is all about.
I think that, you know, women, if I may be so bold as to say so here, I do believe that in many cases, we are the change agents of society. And that the caregiving story is not ours alone at all. But it is -- it is ours to add to what we instinctively have as our greatest gifts. And that is, to share our hearts and share our stories.
And I think that the role that government can play is to listen to us, to find, to ask the question. You know, the best thing you can do for anybody, isn't it, to say, what do you need, how can I help you? And that will be something individual for everybody. But you know, the reason why people come on Larry's show and talk, the reason why all the talk shows in our culture proliferated, we have an innate need to be heard, I think. That's it.
KING: Santa Rosa, California. Hello?
CALLER: Yes, I have a question regarding Leeza's mentioning the caregiving people, part of it. But the research part of it is what I'm curious about. My grandmother was 91 when she passed away from Alzheimer's. And it was just a very sad situation because they were married, my grandmother and grandfather were married for 75 years. He would visit the home twice a day, to make sure that....
KING: So your question is about how much research is going on?
CALLER: Well, yes. Because I'm worried about the hereditary part of it.
KING: What do we know? What don't we know?
GIBBONS: Well, you know, we know -- we don't know enough about how much of it is inherited and what percentage of it comes from a familial tie. My understanding is that most of the cases are sort of random. But we do know that there's a certain gene, and I shouldn't be speaking out of school. I'm always so hesitant to talk about medical....
KING: You know layman's position.
GIBBONS: Right. I'm totally a layman, but I am a family member who is, like you, perhaps, worried about, am I going to get it? My kids are worried, are you going to get it? I shouldn't say worried. But they're interested in what we know. You know, there is a chromosome that can be damaged that will cause the condition. And there is this E-4 gene. And you can be screened to have the gene, but my understanding is, if you have E-4, you don't necessarily go on to get Alzheimer's disease.
I think, this is again speaking not on behalf of my foundation, but I'm one of those voices that believes that stem cell research, that we should open the door, and I think Nancy Reagan did a very brave thing with that as well.
KING: Before we go to break, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He hosts "AC 360" at the top of the hour, and our good friend William Jefferson Clinton is aboard, correct?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He is, yes. An exclusive one-on- one interview with former President Clinton talking about AIDS and the war in Iraq and the rebuilding of New Orleans.
Also ahead tonight at 10:00, Larry and Leeza, a developing story. It happened just a short time ago. A Florida jury says that Carlie Brucia's killer deserves to die. He killed little Carlie Brucia when she was just 11 years old, after grabbing her on the street, as you see in this video. The abduction caught tape outside a car wash in February of 2004. Tonight on 360, we'll take you inside the court for the dramatic verdict. You will hear from Carlie's mom, and we'll talk about the next legal moves that could be made in the case. Will the judge actually accept the jury's recommendation? Coming up at 10:00, Larry.
KING: Thanks, Anderson. "ANDERSON COOPER 360," that's at the top of the hour. And today also is World AIDS Day. The president spoke on it today, rather eloquently I thought.
We'll be right back.
KING: A caller who didn't want to go on, wanted to know if you know anything about chelation therapy in Alzheimer's?
GIBBONS: I don't.
KING: Neither do I, but I know it's an alternative form of medicine. Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry, hi, Leeza.
CALLER: I just have a question. I don't have any experience with Alzheimer's and hopefully in the future I never will. So as an outsider, you were talking before how your mom might put on a bra outside of her clothes and you would say -- and your dad would say: you look great, let's go.
Did you do that because maybe in the past there was an experience of -- where you might have said something and there was just resentment and anger caused? Or is that just to try and respect the process of what's happening and deal with it that way?
GIBBONS: I appreciate the question and I hope you don't ever have to deal with it. But, yes, that's the thing, you know, when someone is dealing with not really sort of being as they used to say, in your right mind. You do want to respect that individual and you don't want to have to take things back that you regret saying because you just didn't know. So yes, you're absolutely right.
KING: Kansas City, Missouri, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Hi, Leeza.
GIBBONS: Hi. CALLER: Thank you so much for your battle against this debilitating disease. I have a dear sister-in-law who is in the final stages of Alzheimer's. And she's having a great deal of trouble swallowing her food. I just was wondering if this is a symptom of the disease?
GIBBONS: Well, it certainly can be if -- again, as Larry and I said earlier, that one of the things -- the brain obviously informs all of our bodily functions. If she's having difficulty swallowing, it could be something else. But it very well -- if she's in the final stages, it may be that.
KING: What's your mother like?
GIBBONS: She is pretty much very vacant. She, too -- my dad at one point, when she was having trouble swallowing, would rub her throat like a little bird to get that reflex. And with people who have that issue, you have to -- caregivers learn that it may take two hours to feed lunch, like a baby. I mean, it may take you -- you can't get frustrated.
KING: How about a shower?
GIBBONS: Well, showers are difficult especially in the early stages, because there's that loss of dignity issue and there may be some combativeness. But respectfulness is a big part of this process. So, people typically have their homes refitted so that they can have a sit-down shower. There are now garments you can wear that will cover the individual so you can shower underneath the garment. And I think that's a lovely solution.
KING: Do we know if more women have it than men?
GIBBONS: You know, I don't know, but I know there are more women on the planet than men, and women live longer. So, I would imagine the answer is yes.
KING: It's world wide, right?
GIBBONS: It's world wide. You know, there are fewer cases, I believe in some of the Asian countries. They wonder, is it related to stress? Is it related to diet? And that's why we need so much more research.
KING: We sure do. We'll be back with more with Leeza Gibbons. For more information, 888-OK-LEEZA, that's toll free. Or leezasplace.org on the Internet. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBONS: We are hoping to build this wall, to break down walls of silence and shame and stigma, which all too often accompany memory disorders in particular. I really am so proud to put on the wall a tribute to my mom, a tribute to my grand mom, two amazing women who deserve to live on and deserve to have their love and spirit recognized. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBONS: If these military personnel look like a Soviet troop to you, then these men are doing their jobs. They're members of the opposing forces unit at Ft. Worth, Texas. Hi, I'm Leeza Gibbons and I'm sitting in a Soviet T-62 tank. This is not a scientist concocting a chemical compound, but rather the man you'll meet tonight is involved in something much more emotional and subjective than that. He's a perfumer whose appearing at Sanger-Harris to premier a new fragrance that he's created.
Hi, everybody. Welcome to tonight's "P.M. Magazine." I'm Leeza Gibbon and this is Leo Simms (ph), he's a mail carrier in the Lakewood area. Now he tells me that his route here is what, pretty uneventful.
LEO SIMMS, MAIL CARRIER: Right.
GIBBONS: Kind of quiet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "P.M. Magazine" was very big. People forget.
GIBBONS: Oh, it was a great show.
KING: They had how many of them?
GIBBONS: Well, they had them in different cities. Evening and then p.m., and we'd laugh and say there's a whole kind of group of us that are uniquely qualified to do crazy stuff, with the beginning of the reality stuff.
KING: It was amazing. You looked adorable.
GIBBONS: Yes, great hair, wasn't it?
KING: Wheaton, Maryland, hello.
CALLER: Yes, hi. I took care of my mom for five years until her passing. And I as a caregiver felt kind of lost because I didn't know what resources were out there, and what was available to us.
And at first I really didn't know what Alzheimer's is. Of course, as you take care of them, you learn. And it's so funny how you have pointed on those kisses that you get and all of a sudden you think back and you laugh at what they say.
KING: What's the question, dear, we only have a minute.
CALLER: I just wondered, what kind of resources or training do you have for the caregivers?
KING: Yes, where did you learn it?
GIBBONS: Well, I actually did a series, it's also available at our Web site, the family guide to caregiving. And it includes all the non-profits. Lots of medical professionals and lots of family experience.
And I learned the way most caregivers learn, from calling up other people and saying: what the hell do I do now? And that's why we started what we started. That's why we opened Leeza's Place, to have a resources where you can say, take a breath. Know that you're not alone and know that there's life after this diagnoses.
KING: Are you expecting the end anytime?
GIBBONS: Yes. But I've learned not to know what to expect, because it's so mysterious. And I don't think you can ever be prepared to say good-bye to anyone. But...
KING: ... it's called the long good-bye.
GIBBONS: Right. And what I know, though, is that when you start to disappear, I'm grateful every day for how close my mom and I were. And honestly, Larry, nothing was left unsaid in our relationship.
KING: Thank you, Leeza. For more information, leezasplace.org. Or you can go to dial, toll-free 1-888-OK-LEEZA, l-e-e-z-a, Leeza. Tomorrow night, an incredible man. Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," one of the most successful best sellers ever. Rick Warren returns tomorrow night. Returning now, got excited -- is Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360." He's got the former president tonight and lots of other breaking stuff. Anderson Cooper, the ball game is in your field.
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