Real Celebrity: Extended care, part 2

More role models

Anne and Kirk Douglas (AP photo/Matt Sayles) Anne and Kirk Douglas (AP photo/Matt Sayles)

As I wrote last week, in the first installment in this series: Americans have always loved celebrities.

We like to reward people who succeed through hard work.

But accident and illness do not discriminate. They can affect the rich and the famous as well as the poor and the obscure.

Here are two more stories about well-known figures who have used extended care, taken from an article I put together for members of my own company's distribution team.

Kirk Douglas: Stroke

Three-time Oscar nominee and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (our nation's highest civilian honor), Kirk Douglas has led a storied life.

At age 69 he survived a heart attack; at 74 he survived a helicopter crash; at 89 he replaced both knees (successfully) against the advice of his doctors.

When he was 79, he survived a stroke. The stroke became the topic of a best-selling book co-authored with his son Michael, "My Stroke of Luck."

The stroke left Douglas with a "residual impairment": great difficulty talking. This must have been frustrating for the man who not only makes his living in front of the camera but who also speaks fluent German and French.

With the help of speech pathologists his problems have been " greatly alleviated". In fact, by the age of 83, Douglas felt confident enough to celebrate the remarkable feat of a second Bar Mitzvah!

As Douglas demonstrates, 90 percent of stroke recipients can expect some residual disability, while only 10 percent fully recover.

Stroke is now the fourth leading cause of death in our country and one of the leading preventable causes of disability and long-term care.

The risk factors for stroke read like a description of America in some respects: smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and lack of exercise.

The direct costs of stroke treatment are expected to exceed $180 billion per year by 2030, while the economic impact of lost productivity adds another $56 billion. Since the greatest uptick in stroke is expected to occur among adults ages 45 to 64, those people's personal finances will be further strained. Unless they can get through the difficult Social Security Disability Insurance claim process, they will be unable to receive Medicare.

Kathleen Turner: Arthritis

Kathleen Turner is perhaps best-known for her sultry, intelligent roles, among them "Body Heat", "Prizzi’s Honor", and "The War of the Roses." 

Her feistiness erupted off-screen when—upon learning she’d have to spend the rest of her life wheelchair-bound— she fired her physician on the spot.

The early 1990s were not easy for Turner. She was diagnosed with the auto-immune disorder rheumatoid arthritis (RA), then underwent nine surgeries in the ensuing decade (including double knee replacement) to maintain her mobility and flexibility and to ensure she would remain wheelchair-free.

Turner fits the profile of a typical RA sufferer: a woman between the ages of 40 and 60. Since RA typically affects the small joints of the hands and feet -- causing painfull swelling, bone erosion and joint deformity -- it's not hard to imagine how such an illness could potentially lead to the loss of "activities of daily living" -- ADL -- independence.

While rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease (and perhaps more closely tied to fibromyalgia and lupus), osteoarthritis is "your grandmother's arthritis," affecting 48 percent of people over age 65. Because it is correlated with obesity, heart disease and diabetes, our national arthritis rate is expected to climb.

Pain, stiffness and fatigue are hallmarks of both versions of arthritis, and both types can lead to a need for assistance. The type of services needed may range from help with household chores and medication management to help with writing, dressing and bathing.

Next week: Read about how one other public figure has used extended care -- and about another public figure's experience as a caregiver.

See also:

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