Founder & CEO
You might know me as The Bow Tie Guy because wearing a bow tie is like wearing two smiles!
Born and raised in St. Louis, MO., I have five older siblings, 25 nieces and nephews, and over 40 great-nieces and nephews who call me the F.U...Favorite Uncle! Now, what were you thinking?
I am confident I got my 'care gene' from my siblings, who always demonstrated to me what Love, Care, and Commitment is all about.
I've been wearing bow ties since my 40th birthday, so if my math is correct, I am entering my 26th year sporting the bow tie look.
An avid hockey fan of the St. Louis Blues since 1967... I still can't believe the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019...but I am thrilled that they did!
In a previous life, before wearing bow ties, I bowled professionally on the Pro Bowlers Tour, winning three regional Professional Bowlers Associations championships and bowling 13-300 games. In 2020, I was honored to be Elected to the St. Louis United States Bowling Congress Hall-of-Fame.
And...I love to podcast!
My Master’s Degree thesis entitled “Spiral of Silence: Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Workplace” was accepted by the faculty at Gonzaga University, where I earned a Master’s degree in Leadership and Communication in 2016.
With an educational and professional background in Social Work and Theology and as a former family caregiver, I now view family caregivers and their employers' issues through the lens of Leadership, Communication, and Servant Leadership.
My passion is advocacy, sharing stories, and connecting people to trusted resources. I am a proponent of a holistic approach to good health and spirituality. Down-to-earth and pragmatic, I have always worked within a consensus-style framework while building bridges instead of roadblocks.
Out of my personal caregiving experience, I wrote "What's The Deal with Caregiving?" a compelling book that informs caregivers about how to deal with the challenges they will encounter, regardless of sexual orientation, family situation, or age. The book is part memoir/how-to, as I share our stories and experiences while on our caregiving journey.
My Approach to Leadership and Caregiving
My passion centers around advocacy in all the things that I do. When we are entrusted to the care of others, there is no better honor. Leaders do not seek responsibility; leaders are drawn to responsibility when they realize how their talents, skills, and abilities can make a difference.
- The courage to put oneself at risk
- The passion to make a difference with others
- Being dissatisfied with the current reality of life, liberty, and justice - Make a difference in Someone Life
- The ability to not take things personally
- Be the advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves
- Take responsibility and let others make excuses
- See the possibilities in a situation rather than the limitations
- Be willing to stand above the crowd for the benefit of others
- Keep an open mind and an open heart
- Don't judge or be reactionary
- Check your ego for the sake of what is best
- Treat everyone as equal and with dignity
- Encourage others to reach their capacity to dream;
- Inspire others with a vision of what they can contribute
- Let my heart speak to the hearts of others:
- Integrate a holistic approach to good health and spirituality:
- The capacity to care, and in caring, to liberate the ideas, energy, and capacity of others:
- The ability to make dreams into reality:
- Love as you would want to be loved, care as you would want to care:
- Caring for those who can’t care for themselves.
Christopher's Educational Background
BA: Child, Family, and Community Service, University of Illinois, Springfield. 1984
MA Studies: Sacred Heart School of Theology 2003
MA: Communication and Leadership Gongaza University 2016
What's The Deal with Caregiving
Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Workplace
Care Gifters Book Series
Today's Caregiver - Two Relationships in One
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - In Sickness and in Health: A Couple's Final Journey
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Life After Death; A Couple's Story Sparks Change
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - A New Beginning; Saying Goodbye
Next Avenue _ Aging Gayfully: Life After Caregiving Ends
Palm Beach Post - Senate Health Care Bill
Florida Times-Union - LGBT Lens To Focus on Elder Caregiving
My Elder Source - Jacksonville, FL
How This All Got Started
The Purple Jacket Blog
After my partner Richard Schiffer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011, we started a blog together called "The Purple Jacket."
The Purple Jacket became a symbol of our caregiving experience, and it was a place where Richard and I could share our stories and feel comforted by the people we met along the way during our caregiving journey.
Through The Purple Jacket, we met thousands of caregivers from all over the world who felt just like we did, scared, concerned, and hopeful for a cure, yet willing to share their knowledge and resources, which helps build a strong community and strong friendships. During this time, we also coined a nickname for Richard, “TLO,”…meaning "The Little One," as Richard stood a foot shorter than me!
Richard loved reading the comments from our readers, and he was always thrilled when someone asked..."How's TLO Today!"
The Purple Jacket is also a symbol of the self-care and self-compassion we had for each other, two very important components of life that are often lost in the midst of caregiving.
We always signed off our blog post on The Purple Jacket by saying..."We might have cancer, but cancer never had us." This slogan was part of our self-compassion and love for each other. Mindful that I was the co-pilot in this journey, we were on this roller-coaster ride together, and no matter what cancer would throw at us, we were in this together as one.
After gaining over 50 lbs while in the midst of caregiving, I knew once I could fit into the Purple Jacket again, I would be on the road to better health and self-care!
While I no longer write on The Purple Jacket, I leave the website up as a memorial to Richard and a memory of all the wonderful people we met during our caregiving journey. You can visit The Purple Jacket here.
The Whole Care Network
Creating the Whole Care Network has been my way of giving back to the Caregiving community, who allowed us to share our story, bringing comfort and joy to Richard and me while establishing life-long friendships through our caregiving journey.
The Whole Care Network is based on my experience as a working family caregiver and the passion I gained through advocacy and collaboration before, during, and after caregiving. I also learned along the way that the best information and referral is usually from one caregiver to another, which took me back to my roots as a director of an information and referral service hotline in St. Louis.
People who are in a crisis situation need a trusted voice, a validated service, and a soothing story to hear. That is what we aim to provide at the Whole Care Network.
For years, the heart of The Whole Care Network was bringing valuable information to family caregivers with shared stories through podcasting. The focus was easy-to-consume media for family caregivers everywhere, organized within 4 Pillars of Care.
The Whole Care Network is currently in the midst of a major expansion to include video podcasts, our WCN University, WCN Masterminds, WCN Author's Spotlight, and WCN Speakers Bureau.
While we are in this growth mode, our mission remains intact: to bring trusted information and resources to sustain a healthy and productive lifestyle at home and work for all caregivers and their care partners.
To learn more about the Whole Care Network and how you can join as a contributor, visit our 'About' page by clicking here!
About Our 2015 Pulizter Prize Nominated Caregiving Story
In Sickness and In Health: A Couples Final Journey
When people ask me, "Why did you create the Whole Care Network, "I always return to our caregiving experience and how fortunate I was to find resources that helped me and my partner Richard Schiffer manage our caregiving journey. Every caregiver has a story; through our stories, we find validation, resources, and respite to help manage our caregiving day.
We were fortunate to have our story chronicled in a 2015 Pulitzer Prize-nominated 3-part story, "In Sickness and In Health: A Couple's Final Journey," which told our journey of caregiving. The story told of the challenges LGBT partners have in dealing with the medical and legal system, but it also told of the love and joy my partner Richard's last years had on our relationship.
Our story has been read by over 500,000 people worldwide since it was published in April 2014. One of the reasons our story was so successful was because readers could place themselves in our shoes, dealing with the health care system and the legal system, balancing work and life while facing the reality our time together was short. It was an afterthought that the story just happened to be about two men.
When it comes to caregiving, there are no economic boundaries, no racial boundaries, no gender boundaries, and no orientation boundaries. Caregiving impacts everyone, and it is through story sharing where diversity meets the road to collaborate on a common cause. And our common reason is to support caregivers before, during, and after caregiving has ended.
Don't just take it from me; read all three stories yourself and watch Richard and me tell our story in our own words in the video below!
The Story Behind the My Green Folder Film Project
In 2022, a screenwriter approached me about developing a script based on our caregiving story. The title "My Green Folder" comes from the fact that I had to carry all our legal documents wherever we went to prove I had legal rights to Richard's care.
Hence the name "My Green Folder."
"My Green Folder" is a feature film based on a true story of Richard Schiffer's and Chris MacLellan's life experiences as a same-sex couple navigating the American health care and legal system before marriage equality became law. Richard and Chris had been partners for eight years when, in 2011, Richard was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which propelled Chris into end-of-life care for his long-term partner.
"My Green Folder" is far from being simply an LGBT story or an ‘illness story,’ this script reveals the devotion between persons of the same gender and enduring adoration between people of different generations, spiritual beliefs, educations, and backgrounds.
In its true essence, "My Green Folder" is a love story. The macro factors of society, prejudices, and injustice lend to the added features of dealing with these factors before marriage equality became law. Given our current political and societal environment, Richard and Chris' story resonates even more today.
When opposites attract, a gay couple's May-December romance proves to be just what was missing in both their lives and then shows the importance of family – and being someone's one and only – until one of them is diagnosed with a fatal illness and the struggle of caring for each other is exacerbated by the challenges society puts on them as a gay couple – based on a true story: My Green Folder.
Learn more about this project by visiting the My Green Folder Film website and viewing the short video below.
What's Next On the Horizon?
Shift Happens; From Healing Ties 2.0 to AgingGayfully™
After almost 300 episodes of "Be A Healthy Caregiver," and my "Healing Ties" podcast, I've moved on to focus on growing the new Whole Care Network as we will be introducing our new Streaming Radio channel in the Summer of 2023.
I have a new brand in the works called AgingGayfully™. Just as caregiving is a universal issue, so is Aging. I intended to create the Aging Gayfully brand under the auspice of travel: "Travel - Adventure - Lifestyle"... via blogs, videos, and podcasts, demonstrating how I am AgingGayfully and finding those on my travel adventures who are aging gayfully too. You'll soon find AgingGayfully™ here on the Whole Care Network and in a few other locations too.
I am thrilled to work with author and international speaker Robert Pardi on our new "Shift Happens Cafe" podcast, which debuted in June of 2023. The Shift Happens Cafe is about two guys who have "surfed the shifts" in life from different sides of the fence to create a life to love after caregiving ends.
I have a new book in the works called "Poop A Rama," but you need to know this book is not as shitty as you might think. This book is about some of the most beautiful conversations people have when their most venerable assistance is needed to the commode. This is a lighthearted book that will touch your heart and soul. I am thrilled to be collaborating with Jack's Caregiver Coalition on this project which will be ready in early 2024.
WHAT MY CLIENTS SAY?
KIND WORDS FROM MY LOVELY CLIENTS
I highly recommend Christopher both as someone you want to listen to and learn from as well as someone you want to work with!"
"Capture Your Audience by Sharing Your Story Authentically and with Compassion..."
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