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Pembroke’s Tammy Boucher to be featured on ‘Dr. Oz’ show about caregivers

  • Tammy Boucher, left, cleans some debris off her father's grave while visiting it with her mom Madeline Annis on Tuesday afternoon, December 4, 2013. Boucher's father Roy passed away last spring. They were visiting the family plot, just a few hundred yards from Annis' home in Pembroke to see how it was doing following a wind storm last week. Boucher had been taking care of her father, making daily visits to his retirement home, and now continues to help caring for her mother while also caring for her own children.   Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9. The episode focuses on caregiver burnout. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tammy Boucher, left, cleans some debris off her father's grave while visiting it with her mom Madeline Annis on Tuesday afternoon, December 4, 2013. Boucher's father Roy passed away last spring. They were visiting the family plot, just a few hundred yards from Annis' home in Pembroke to see how it was doing following a wind storm last week. Boucher had been taking care of her father, making daily visits to his retirement home, and now continues to help caring for her mother while also caring for her own children. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9. The episode focuses on caregiver burnout.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Tammy Boucher, center, in a photograph from a family gathering that sits on her mother's shelf at her Pembroke home. Boucher, who's been handling the care of her parents and her children, will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tammy Boucher, center, in a photograph from a family gathering that sits on her mother's shelf at her Pembroke home. Boucher, who's been handling the care of her parents and her children, will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Tammy Boucher giggles with her mom Madeline Annis in her Pembroke home while going over her medications on Tuesday morning, December 4, 2013. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tammy Boucher giggles with her mom Madeline Annis in her Pembroke home while going over her medications on Tuesday morning, December 4, 2013. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Tammy Boucher, left, helps her mom Madeline Annis get down the stairs out of her home in Pembroke on Tuesday afternoon, December 4, 2013. Boucher and Annis were headed to their nearby family plot to visit Boucher's father Roy, who passed away last spring. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tammy Boucher, left, helps her mom Madeline Annis get down the stairs out of her home in Pembroke on Tuesday afternoon, December 4, 2013. Boucher and Annis were headed to their nearby family plot to visit Boucher's father Roy, who passed away last spring. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Tammy Boucher, left, cleans some debris off her father's grave while visiting it with her mom Madeline Annis on Tuesday afternoon, December 4, 2013. Boucher's father Roy passed away last spring. They were visiting the family plot, just a few hundred yards from Annis' home in Pembroke to see how it was doing following a wind storm last week. Boucher had been taking care of her father, making daily visits to his retirement home, and now continues to help caring for her mother while also caring for her own children.   Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9. The episode focuses on caregiver burnout. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Tammy Boucher, center, in a photograph from a family gathering that sits on her mother's shelf at her Pembroke home. Boucher, who's been handling the care of her parents and her children, will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Tammy Boucher giggles with her mom Madeline Annis in her Pembroke home while going over her medications on Tuesday morning, December 4, 2013. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Tammy Boucher, left, helps her mom Madeline Annis get down the stairs out of her home in Pembroke on Tuesday afternoon, December 4, 2013. Boucher and Annis were headed to their nearby family plot to visit Boucher's father Roy, who passed away last spring. Boucher will a featured guest on the Dr. Oz show scheduled to air on Monday, December 9.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Tammy Boucher thought it was a practical joke.

The woman on the other end of the phone call said, “Hi, this is Amanda from The Dr. Oz Show.”

When Boucher pressed her to come clean and admit the joke, the woman said, a little more firmly, “No, really, I’m Amanda, from The Dr. Oz Show.”

So began a whirlwind week last month for Boucher, of Pembroke, who will be featured next week on the show when it shines a light on the health concerns of caregivers when they give too much thought for others and not enough for themselves.

“I’m not unique. My story is one many people can tell today, and the show was using my story to bring up the issues of how important it is to take care of yourself, because if you don’t, how are you going to take care of all the people who rely on you?” Boucher said earlier this week.

The Monitor featured her story on Mothers Day, describing the lives of many in the “sandwich generation,” caring both for active children and aging parents. At the time, Boucher was chauffeuring her two children to and from school and numerous activities and spending time every day visiting her father, Roy Annis, at Pleasant View Center in Concord, where he lived because his dementia had grown too severe for his wife to care for him at home.

Annis died a week after that story was published; Boucher now spends part of almost every day visiting and caring for her mother, who also lives in Pembroke.

“My parents had been married more than 65 years,” she said. “Not only is my mom missing the man she had loved, she’s also lost her social network, because she had been going to the nursing home every day to see him. She’s aging as well; taking care of my dad took its toll on her.”

There’s medications to monitor and refill, doctors’ appointments to get to, insurance and other financial information to manage.

“It’s all there, and it’s a few steps beyond just ‘take the trash to the road’ type of stuff,” Boucher said.

Giving to givers

American caregivers – unpaid spouses, family members or neighbors – provided $450 billion worth of services in 2009, according to a paper from AARP.

On average, they spend 20.4 hours per week providing care, with live-in caregivers spending 39.3 hours per week, according to the paper.

Eleven percent of caregivers said in a survey that their own health deteriorated as a result of their work, and people who work full time in addition to providing care for a family member report significantly lower levels of personal health, according to the paper.

AARP was responsible for efforts to restore funding in the state budget this spring for caregiver services – about $321,000 in the second half of the biennium – that had been cut from the 2011-12 state budget, said Doug McNutt, the chapter’s associate state director for advocacy.

The money goes to the 12 ServiceLink offices across the state, which can provide direct funding support to offset the cost of missing work to take care of a relative, as well as provide assistance for people in a broad array of services.

ServiceLink can help connect people with volunteer transportation to doctors’ appointments, support groups and has even helped one family replace a dog, McNutt said.

“In general, we have supported the concept that it makes sense from a policy standpoint to support caregivers,” he said. “So much care is provided by unpaid caregivers, anything we do for them is good for the sustainability of the system in the long run.”

Nationally, AARP is making caregiving a priority focus in 2014 and has been trying to draw attention through the media. So when the national office called for a recommendation of someone who might be a good example of caregivers for shows such as Dr. Oz, Jamie Bulen, associate state director for communications, knew just who to call.

A few years ago, Boucher worked as a public relations contractor on an AARP campaign to improve conversations on health care and long-term financial security.

During the campaign, Boucher would often be pulled aside for a minute or two to handle questions about her father’s health and care, Bulen said.

‘Not a lot of breaks’

Amanda called on a Thursday; on Friday, Boucher went through another round of interviews with the producers, who showed up on her doorstep on Monday to film a day in her life. Then, on Tuesday, she was whisked to New York City to film in the studio.

There, she met host Mehmet Oz and guest expert Ramani Durvasula, a doctor specializing in health psychology, where psychology and physical health meet.

They performed some blood tests and a general physical, which all confirmed what Boucher said she knew but didn’t want to acknowledge: she had been running herself ragged taking care of everything except her own health.

“I find I’m exhausted all the time,” she said. “I’ve had some weight gain because there’s no time for exercise or eating healthy.”

Emotionally, “you reach that point where you snap a little more than you’d like to. You get to a point where physically and mentally, I need a break, and there are not a lot of breaks where I am in life.”

She couldn’t share the details of the experts’ advice before the show airs but said much of it focused on prioritizing and planning.

“The advice they gave to get a better balance, I found very helpful, but I won’t say its going to be easy to implement,” she said. “You get into a certain routine and that’s how you function, and it’s hard to break that down and rebuild, even though functioning at 150 percent all the time takes its toll.”

She’s trying to remind herself that not every task is a priority that needs to be kept at the top of the to-do list, and not every task is something she needs to take on personally.

“One of those things I know I need to do is recognize myself as a caregiver, and recognize that can be stressful and isolating and lonely, and I need to let people into my circle either to help or listen to me talk,” Boucher said.

“I hope at the end of the day, what people get from the show is knowing they’re not alone,” she said. “I’m just like them, and it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to get frustrated and you really do need to take care of yourself.”

The show is tentatively scheduled to air Monday. In Concord and Pembroke it airs at 3 p.m. on the Boston Fox affiliate. To confirm the time and channel for other locations, visit DoctorOz.com.

Boucher said she’s going to try, but she’s not sure she’ll have time to sit still long enough to watch it.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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