26

Oct

Actress Holly Robinson Peete Opens Up On Caregiver Role

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Celebrity doesn’t leave anyone immune to the real struggles that affect all of us. Just ask 21 Jump Street actress and former co-host of The Talk Holly Robinson Peete.

The long-time TV and film personality spent two decades looking after her now-deceased father, Matt, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 46. Even in the peak of her Hollywood career, she found herself playing the role of caregiver.

“[It was] financially, emotionally draining,” said Robinson Peete to USA Today. “I’m glad I did it. I took care of him until the end, but it was so hard.”

Caring for someone with a chronic disability is difficult enough, Robinson Peete had two people to look after with chronic conditions. Her now 19-year-old son RJ, was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. She noticed at age two that he was no longer hitting developmental milestones or connecting with his sister, but said she was floored when a developmental pediatrician told her that RJ “was never going to pretty much do anything or be anything.” Refusing to accept this, she flung herself into giving her son the best quality treatment possible.

“It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself, but then you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work,” said Robinson Peete. “You have a very small window of time where you can get an early intervention and that’s going to give your kid the best chance of success.”

Today, RJ is fully communicative and largely dependent with the aid of an autism service dog. His remarkable progress was highlighted on the family’s OWN reality show For Peete’s Sake. He was even recently hired by L.A. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to work in the team’s clubhouse. Robinson Peete has also launched the HollyRod Foundation to provide services for other families of children with autism.

Robinson Peete’s caregiver days may not be done yet, though. Her husband, Rodney, has brain lesions stemming from his NFL days. These could potentially indicate chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease caused by repeated head trauma.

But unlike with her son RJ, she’s determined to not waste a second to begin taking preventative measures. She and Rodney signed on with Harvard University in their research efforts to study the health concerns of former football players.

Through it all, she’s even managing to find time for self-care and ensuring she’s in a position to handle everything in front of her.

“The bottom line is I’m the CEO of this joint,” said Robinson Peete. “I have to keep myself healthy. To not keep myself healthy and to not stay up on everything … is a disservice to my family.”