From funny to heart-wrenching, six caregivers, clients and family members from across the Los Angeles area recently told their stories in a powerful showcase called “Ask Me If I Care” at the Directors Guild Theater in Hollywood. The show was co-presented by Caring Across Generations and MPTF, a social services organization for the entertainment community, and hosted by Lauren Miller Rogen, actress, writer and founder of the Alzheimer's advocacy group Hilarity for Charity, as part of Caring Across's larger efforts to bring true stories of care to the Hollywood community.
Emily Uy, a member of Caring Across affiliate Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) and Caring Across's 2014 Caregiver of the Year, recalled what it was like to be diagnosed with breast cancer while caring for a terminally ill client. Joel Rogosin, a former TV writer and resident of MPTF’s campus in Woodland Hills, recalled his close relationship with his aunt Maggie from the perspective of when he was a young man.
Other stories focused on the importance of caregivers remembering to take care of themselves. Sandra de Castro Buffington, a leading thinker on how to incorporate social issues into pop culture, recalled a time in her life when, confronting the death of her mother and her son's mental health crisis simultaneously, she realized the most powerful thing she could do was find peace within herself. Edith Fernandez, a professional caregiver and member of PWC, came to a similar conclusion when she collapsed from exhaustion after working nonstop.
Penny Segal, a family caregiver, told of finding community with others like her and realizing that she was, in fact, not alone. And finally, Jon Huntley, a man living with ALS, shared what it was like to find himself apart from his family on Thanksgiving after moving into long-term care. Even as he shared about how his emotional and physical pain caused him to lash out at his caregiver — via a recording of his story due to his ALS — his caregiver came up out of the audience during the performance to wipe his tears.
The evening’s stars developed their stories through The Moth’s Community Program. The Moth, in addition to hosting sold-out story slams and making a cameo appearance in the most recent episode of GIRLS, teaches storytelling workshops. Caring Across has been in partnership with The Moth since the beginning of 2014 to provide caregivers and seniors, both groups too often invisible, the chance to craft well-told stories that can have the power to break through people’s prejudices and fears.
At a packed reception following the event, audience members buzzed about their own experiences, wanting a chance to tell their own personal caregiving stories. Others noted how hearing these stories helped them broaden their perspective about how immigration could relate to care, or realize commonalities transcending diagnosis, age and relationship.
The evening was a convincing demonstration that some of the best stories aren’t pitched in writers' rooms, and they don’t happen on set. Some of the best stories start in our homes and star the people we’re closest to. They are stories about love, joy and interdependence, but also about conflict, loss and creative problem-solving. They are stories anchored by dynamic, complicated relationships. They are stories of care. Now we just need to get more of them out there.
Caring Across member Edith Fernandez, from the Pilipino Workers Center, tells her story at the Directors Guild Theater in Los Angeles
Caring Across co-director Ai-jen Poo and MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher thank the guests for attending
Showcase host Lauren Miller Rogen of Hilarity for Charity and Caring Across co-director Ai-jen Poo after the show
Caring Across co-director Ai-jen Poo and MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher pose with the storytellers after the show
Caring Across co-director Ai-jen Poo poses with Pilipino Workers Center storytellers Edith Fernandez and Emily Uy
Emily Uy tells her story at the Caring Across and MPTF Showcase