Mary Tyler Moore: Victim of a Common Disease of Older Adults

Pneumonia kills more than 50,000 Americans each year, most of them age 65 and older. Actress Mary Tyler Moore’s 2017 death is an example. But it is not limited to the elderly.

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Mary Tyler Moore: Victim of a Common Disease of Older Adults
3 Min Read February 3rd, 2017 Updated:March 9th, 2024

Iconic actress Mary Tyler Moore, known for her roles on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," passed away on January 25, 2017, at the age of 80, due to complications from pneumonia and cardiopulmonary disease. Her death underscored the vulnerability of older adults to life-threatening infectious diseases like pneumonia, which claims the lives of more than 50,000 Americans annually, most of whom are 65 and older.


Throughout her life, Moore battled Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed at age 33, a chronic illness that significantly impacted her career and became a focal point of her advocacy work. She was a dedicated advocate for diabetes research, serving as the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Her efforts to promote awareness and fund research for a cure made a profound impact on the diabetes community.


In addition to diabetes, Moore encountered other health issues, including a benign brain tumor in 2011 that required surgical intervention. Despite these challenges, she advocated for health-related causes, demonstrating remarkable resilience and a commitment to helping others.


People magazine had reported that Moore was hospitalized with pneumonia due to complications from her Type 1 diabetes, a condition that often leads to further health complications and the need for long-term care. 


Moore's legacy as an entertainer and humanitarian continues to inspire, reminding us of the importance of health advocacy and the impact of chronic illnesses on individuals and their families. Her passing marked the end of an era for fans who admired her groundbreaking television work and her perseverance in the face of health challenges. 


What is Pneumonia?


Pneumonia, a common lung infection caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi, can range in severity. When these pathogens invade the lungs, they cause the air sacs to fill with pus and fluid, making breathing difficult and limiting oxygen intake. The symptoms of pneumonia can include coughing, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing, among others. The impact of pneumonia is notably worse in individuals with pre-existing chronic health conditions or in older adults.


For those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the body's ability to fight off infections like pneumonia is compromised. This vulnerability can lead to a more severe manifestation of the disease, prolonged recovery periods, and a higher risk of complications, which might include respiratory failure or the spread of infection to other parts of the body. 


According to the American Thoracic Society, individuals with chronic health conditions are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia and often experience more severe outcomes as a result.


Older adults, typically those 65 years and older, are also at a heightened risk for pneumonia and its complications. As people age, their immune system naturally weakens, making it harder to fight off infections. Furthermore, the presence of other age-related health issues can exacerbate the severity of pneumonia. 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that pneumonia and influenza rank among the top causes of death for individuals in this age group. Vaccinations and preventative care are recommended strategies to reduce the risk of developing pneumonia in older adults and those with chronic health conditions.


While most healthy individuals recover from pneumonia within one to three weeks, it can be life-threatening. However, various treatments are available depending on the cause, the severity of symptoms, and the patient's age and overall health. 


Pneumonia in Long-Term Care Settings


In long-term care facilities, the close living quarters and shared spaces increase the risk of spreading infection, making pneumonia outbreaks a significant concern. The American Lung Association notes that pneumonia is a leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly, and individuals with chronic health conditions are more susceptible to developing pneumonia and experiencing more severe outcomes, including death.


The CDC emphasizes the importance of vaccination, hand hygiene, and other infection control practices in long-term care settings to reduce the risk of pneumonia. These measures are essential for protecting vulnerable populations, as pneumonia in these individuals can lead to prolonged illness, hospitalization, and a significant impact on their overall health and quality of life.


Furthermore, chronic health issues can complicate the treatment of pneumonia, as these conditions may hinder the body's ability to fight off the infection. Effectively managing chronic diseases and maintaining overall health are key strategies in reducing the risk of pneumonia and its severe impacts on individuals in long-term care facilities.


Health Can Change No Matter Your Age


The sudden death of ESPN college football reporter Edward Aschoff in 2019 surprised many people, who underscored that health can change suddenly. 


According to ABC NEWS, he was initially diagnosed with pneumonia and started normal antibiotic treatment. However, his condition didn't improve; it became worse. Aschoff's fiancée, Katy Berteau, said that he died after receiving a "presumed diagnosis of HLH," hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. HLH is a very rare condition in which the immune system attacks itself and other healthy tissues.


No matter your age, your health can change at a moment's notice. Whether it takes many years or a few weeks, having a plan to address the impact of changing health is critical for planning. 


Long-Term Care Often Occurs With Illness, Accidents or Aging


Advances in medical science have significantly increased human longevity, but with this extended lifespan comes a higher risk of chronic illnesses, mobility issues, dementia, and frailty. These health challenges often necessitate assistance with daily living activities or supervision due to cognitive impairments. 


Long-term care, required by many as they age or in the wake of sudden health events or accidents, is not covered by health insurance or Medicare. These programs only provide for short-term skilled services, leaving a gap in care for those needing sustained support.


Whether it's the aftermath of an accident, managing long-term health conditions like diabetes, or confronting the health issues that accompany older age, long-term care presents a challenge that affects both families and their finances. Many Americans will need long-term care services at some point in their lives, yet most are unprepared for the substantial costs involved.


Long-term care often occurs unexpectedly, leaving individuals and their families to navigate the financial and emotional strains without adequate preparation. Health insurance and Medicare may cover immediate, skilled medical needs, but the reality of long-term custodial care due to aging, illness, or accidents falls outside their scope. This means the responsibility will be on you.


You can plan for the costs and burdens of future long-term care needs. Unfortunately, many are unaware that paying out of pocket is the default unless one has limited income and qualifies for Medicaid or has proactively obtained Long-Term Care Insurance. Planning ahead with Long-Term Care Insurance can provide a safety net, ensuring access to quality care, protecting assets, and alleviating the burdens placed on families.


Your Current Good Health Gives You Planning Options

You can not purchase Long-Term Care Insurance once you require care or after a severe health change. This is why experts suggest planning in your 40s or 50s when you generally still enjoy good health and affordable premiums. However, if you enjoy good health, you can find affordable options for your 60s and older. 


You can start your research by utilizing the tools available on LTC NEWS. The LTC NEWS Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide is a great read. 


The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator will help you determine the current and future cost of care services in your area. 


Get Professional Help with Long-Term Care Planning

Be sure to get help from a trusted Long-Term Care Insurance specialist representing the major insurance companies who can provide accurate quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies. These LTC Insurance specialists are uniquely qualified to help you shop for the right plan and design coverage based on your age, health, family history, and other considerations - Find a Qualified LTC Insurance Specialist.


Long-Term Care Insurance is easy, affordable, and rate stable income and asset protection It will give your loved ones the time to be family and not be burdens with being your future caregiver. It will also protect your lifestyle and legacy and give you control and independence. 


Aging is a reality, and health changes happen to all of us, including celebrities. Nobody is immune from the consequences of aging. You have worked hard to secure a future retirement you can enjoy; don't allow the costs and burdens of long-term care to mess that up for you or your loved ones. 


Mary Tyler Moore: A Television Icon

Depending on their age, Mary Tyler Moore was always present on TV for many Americans. This might be why many people are interested in her life, career, health, and death. 


Moore's career blossomed on the small screen. She charmed audiences as Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-1966), a role that broke stereotypes and established her as a talented comedic actress. 


This success paved the way for her defining role as Mary Richards in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1970-1977). This groundbreaking sitcom showcased an independent, single woman navigating career and life in Minneapolis, forever influencing television portrayals of working women.

Beyond television, Moore ventured into film. While primarily known for her comedic roles, she demonstrated her dramatic range in the Oscar-nominated film "Ordinary People" (1980).


Mary Tyler Moore's legacy extends beyond entertainment. She was a vocal advocate for diabetes awareness and animal rights, leaving a lasting impact on both Hollywood and social causes.


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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Taking care of your health and planning to live a long life is important, but it's also important to remember that getting older is part of life. As you age, you are likely to need help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia. This long-term care is costly. So, it's smart to plan not just for retirement but also for any long-term care you might need later.

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Adding Long-Term Care Insurance to your retirement plan is a prudent step that protects your financial future, ensures access to quality care, and provides peace of mind for both you and your family. It's not just planning for the years ahead; it's about planning for the quality of life you deserve and ensuring that your retirement years are as comfortable and dignified as possible.

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LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory: Your Resource for Finding Quality Care Provider

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These four LTC NEWS guides will assist you in trying to find appropriate long-term services for a loved one:

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