Emmy-winning actress Christina Applegate, known for shows like "Married with Children," and "Dead to Me," shocked her fans when she let the world know of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in August of 2021 on Twitter.
Very scary for me, because this body that I had known was no longer mine.
This is a diagnosis that many people hear. Worldwide, more than 2.3 million people have a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and over one million in the United States, according to the National MS Society.
MS disrupts the flow of information within the brain, which can cause unpredictable physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. There is no cure for this central nervous system which often leads to the individual needing help with daily living activities.
Now that the final season of the NetFlix series, “Dead to Me,” has started streaming, Applegate is beginning to talk about her condition. She told Variety that she started having symptoms in January 2021.
She said that right before they started shooting, it was as if she “got hit by a truck and didn't know what was going on."
Applegate's Strange Journey
Applegate says it has been a "strange journey" so far. She has faced other health problems. In 2008 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. On her NetFlix TV series, "Dead to Me," the character also had breast cancer.
"Dead to Me" is in its final season. Producers temporarily halted production after Applegate shared her multiple sclerosis diagnosis. At the time, officials at Netflix and CBS Studios released a joint statement saying they will give the actress "time and space."
People with MS often need help with daily activities. Sometimes, because of cognitive decline, they also require supervision. If in-home care or assisted living is no longer viable for care, they will move to a nursing home as their health declines substantially.
They halted filming the show until she was ready to resume, which she insisted on doing. She now needed a wheelchair and had to be physically held up, by an off-camera crew member, for shots.
Applegate has put on 40 pounds since receiving her diagnosis and now uses a cane to get around. She remarked that she "wouldn't look in the mirror anymore" during fittings with the costume designer while filming the show.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
On November 14, 2022, Applegate celebrated her receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Several current and former coworkers, including Linda Cardellini from "Dead to Me," Katey Sagal from "Married...With Children," and David Faustino, were present to honor Applegate.
She debuted her new cane and appeared sans shoes, as footwear can be restricting for people who have MS.
MS More Common Than Many Think
MS is the most common progressive neurologic disease of young adults worldwide. Nearly one million people live with MS in the United States, but MS is common worldwide.
In Canada, nearly 100,000 people are being treated for MS. The prevalence of MS in Canada is among the highest reported in the world. Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates around 130,000 people live with MS in the United Kingdom. More than 700,000 people have multiple sclerosis in Europe.
These numbers don't count the many millions affected by this condition through their role as caregivers and family members. MS is one of many reasons people require long-term health care services during their lifetime.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, people experience their first MS symptoms between the ages of 15 and 50. The average age is 34.
Four Types of MS
There are four types of MS; however, Applegate has not announced which type she has been diagnosed with. The most common form of MS is Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS).
RRMS is defined by clearly identifiable attacks lasting days or weeks, with periods between stable relapses and the absence of disease progression. However, following an attack, many people experience a full recovery, but some will experience residual loss in mental or physical function upon recovery.
There are Primary and Secondary-Progressive forms. Over time, the disease is consistently progressive and includes more frequent relapses with minor remission. The loss of physical and mental function occurs without recovery between attacks.
Physical therapy and medications that suppress the immune system can help with symptoms and slow disease progression. There is no cure for MS. There are treatments available. They focus on speeding recovery from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease. Chemotherapy, anti-inflammatory medications, immunosuppressive drugs, and steroids are used to help treat symptoms.
Long-Term Care Often Needed Not Covered by Health Insurance
Many people believe that their health insurance or Medicare will pay for the long-term health care many people with MS will need for in-home caregivers, assisted living facilities, or even nursing homes in extreme cases. The fact is - they won't. Only Medicaid and Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for the care many people with MS will require as the disease progresses.
Medicaid, however, requires a person to have little or no income and assets. Long-Term Care Insurance must be purchased when you are relatively healthy; otherwise, it will either be too expensive or unavailable.
Family Often Become Caregivers
Unless a person has Long-Term Care Insurance, many family members attempt to provide the care needed by a person suffering from MS. However, the role of caregiver is very demanding.
Professional care services are available for in-home care. Adult day care centers and assisted living facilities are usually able to provide the necessary services for someone with MS.
Care costs can vary widely depending on where you live. In the Los Angeles area, in-home care can run as much as $67,808 a year; a nursing home, the most expensive, will average about $133,000 a year LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - California.
Planning needs to happen when a person is younger and healthier. Most people who purchase Long-Term Care Insurance are in their 50s. Experts suggest starting research in your 40s or 50s when your health is usually good.
About the Author
An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.
Contributor since August 21st, 2017
Long-term care is both a cash flow issue and a family issue. Preparing your family and finances for the financial costs and burdens associated with long-term health care is key to enjoying a successful future retirement.
Your health can change at any time; be it like Christina Applegate with MS, or some other health problem, changes in health are unpredictable.
These changes could make you need to care much younger or make you uninsurable for coverage, but planning is essential when you are younger and healthier.
People need long-term health care for a variety of reasons. Be it chronic health problems, mobility issues, dementia, or the frailty of aging, the care you may need will be expensive.
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Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable way to address the costs and burdens of aging and declining health. Quality care is important, and the guaranteed tax-free benefits from your LTC policy will give you access to quality care options, including in-home care.
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Frequently Asked Questions - Get the answers to the most often asked questions about long-term health care planning and LTC Insurance.
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Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.
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