‘We need to embrace the leaving’: On National Caregivers Day, NBC anchor shares lessons of caring for father

More than 53 million Americans share the difficult, unpaid job of providing care for a family member.

On National Caregivers Day — the third Friday in February — NBC anchor and reporter Richard Lui is sharing some of what he learned while spending eight years caring for his late father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.

Lui was based in New York City. His father lived in San Francisco.

“I asked myself if it made sense for me to leave a city and job for somebody who may not even know that I was doing that for him,” Lui told WTOP. “I made the decision to travel from New York to San Francisco three times a month.”

Providing care for his father was more than simply one role reversal: “Not only was I taking care of him, potentially, as my child, I was also taking care of him, potentially, as a nurse.”

To connect with his father, Lui wore a paper nametag that read, “I’m Richard, your son,” and spoke into an amplifier connected to headphones his father, Stephen, was wearing. Initially, his father would blink once to signal “yes” in response to Richard’s questions.

In 2021, Lui authored a book, “Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness,” in which he acknowledged the grueling nature of being a caregiver while offering guidance to others.

“Stay in shape, both physically and mentally and emotionally, for the caregiving, because you need it,” Lui said. “It’s a long journey, and you have a lot of ups and downs.”

Lui recalled appreciating the support of friends and family members who took the time to listen and acknowledge the sacrifice that caregivers make.

“You can offer help, you can offer time away, you can do things they can’t do every day,” Lui said. “Take their car in for an oil change, or take them to lunch.”

Lui said his father died in 2022. A new documentary, “Unconditional,” which included Lui’s experiences with his father, just came out.

“I have no regrets,” said Liu, who added the lessons he learned would not have been possible if he were not thrust into a role he’d never hoped for — caring for an ailing father.

“We need to embrace the leaving,” Liu said. “If we run away from this, we’re leaving a lot of great things on the tale, about ourselves, and about our culture, and about our families.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report. 

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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