"Short-Term Memory is Shot" Michael J. Fox New Parkinson's Challenges Force Retirement

Fox has been outspoken about his Parkinson's disease since he went public with his diagnosis in 1998. He explains his cognitive decline in a new book and media interviews that has forced him into a second retirement.

Recommend This Page
"Short-Term Memory is Shot" Michael J. Fox New Parkinson's Challenges Force Retirement
6 Min Read April 6th, 2016 Updated:July 30th, 2021

Since his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease at the age of 29, Michael J. Fox has always been optimistic about himself and life. With growing health issues, he has become more realistic. In his new book, "No Time Like the Future," he is becoming soberer about his condition and mortality.

"There is a time for everything, and my time of putting in a twelve-hour workday, and memorizing seven pages of dialogue, is best behind me," Fox writes in his book. 

He says he is entering his second retirement. While he admits, or perhaps hopes, that could change because, as he writes, everything changes, he seems to understand that he is entering another phase of life.

"... if this is the end of my acting career, so be it," Fox says.

A Fall Starts his Slide

Falls are one of the primary reasons that older people or those with chronic health issues end up needing long-term health care. In an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Fox spoke about his fall.

He explained he thought things were going well, but an accident caused him to break his arm. Fox described his fall as "careless," as he slipped and fell in his hallway and slid into his kitchen.

He was home alone at the time, and he knew he had "shattered" his arm.

"So I found myself underneath the phone, waiting for the ambulance to come, lying on the floor with my broken arm," Fox explained on GMA.

He said this was "bottom" for him. Fox said, "It was so useless. It was so pointless and so stupid, so avoidable."

Short-Term Memory is Shot

Part of the problem, which often happens with Parkinson's, is his short-term memory. Fox has noticed that he is now suffering from cognitive decline, including confusion, delusions, and dementia.

He says this is something he rarely contemplated and never spoke about in the past, 

In the book, he describes looking for his car keys before remembering he can no longer is able to drive. He mistook one of his twin daughters for the other and uttered, "What did you think?" to "the person to my left, who isn't there."

In an interview with People magazine, Fox says the disease is infringing on his ability to act.

"My short-term memory is shot," he said. 

"I always had a real proficiency for lines and memorization. And I had some extreme situations where the last couple of jobs I did were actually really word-heavy parts. I struggled during both of them," Fox explained.

Fox Warned to be Careful

Parkinson's Disease affects an individual's balance, gait, and movement and can impose mobility constraints. It also can cause what is called Parkinson's disease dementia. The person has a decline in thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities.

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of people with Parkinson's eventually experience Parkinson's disease dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Fox told GMA that everyone is taking an abundance of caution with him. He has been warned to be more careful.

"I have to think before I walk; I can't just get up and go because I don't have much control of my momentum and control of my direction," Fox said.

Parkinson's at Age 29

Fox was working on the movie "Doc Hollywood" in 1991 when he learned about his condition. The published article says he waited seven years to announce his situation to the world since he felt it would hurt his acting career. He claims he was in denial.

According to a report published on amomama.com, Fox noticed a twitch in his left little finger. In 1991, while on the set of "Doc Hollywood," Fox sought a neurologist's advice. However, the neurologist dismissed it as an injury to his funny bone. But six months later, the symptoms had worsened. 

His foundation website offers several resources for both researchers and the public, including those who have Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia. 

Getting diagnosed at age 29 put Fox in a rare subgroup referred to as "young-onset" Parkinson's patients – those who are younger than 50 years old. It is much more common for Parkinson's to affect those age 65 and older. 

Being that Parkinson's is both a chronic and progressive condition, the now 60-year-old Fox may need more Parkinson's help at home to accomplish his normal activities of daily living. Family members face significantly increased challenges and responsibilities as their loved one enters later stages of the disease. Typically, a Parkinson's patient will require close supervision due to memory loss associated with later stages of the disease.

As his condition progresses, Fox will see declining health and mobility. In addition, many people with Parkinson's have a decline in their cognitive ability. Unfortunately, he has already seen a decline in his memory. 

In recent years, Fox appeared on some episodes of the CBS TV series 'The Good Wife' and 'The Good Fight,' and ABC's 'Designated Survivor.'

 "It was pretty scary. I was 29 years old and so it was the last thing I expected to hear.” "I thought I'd hurt my shoulder doing some stunt because I had a twitch in my pinkie. And the doctor said 'You have Parkinson's disease.' He said, 'The good news is that you have 10 years of work left'."

Michael J Fox

Speaking with David Letterman many years ago, Fox described the day he received his diagnosis.

Another complicating factor is that many people with both dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson's disease dementia also have plaques and tangles — hallmark brain changes linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Lewy bodies are also found in several other brain disorders, including dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Evidence suggests that dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson's disease, and Parkinson's disease dementia may be linked to the same underlying abnormalities in alpha-synuclein brain processing.

The key brain changes linked to Parkinson's disease and Parkinson's disease dementia are abnormal microscopic deposits composed chiefly of alpha-synuclein, a protein that's found widely in the brain but whose normal function isn't yet known. The deposits are called "Lewy bodies".

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the brain changes caused by Parkinson's disease begin in a region that plays a key role in the movement. As Parkinson's brain changes gradually spread, they often begin to affect mental functions, including memory and the ability to pay attention, make sound judgments, and plan the steps needed to complete a task.

Michael J. Fox Foundation 

Today he devotes much of his time to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which he set up in 2000. He has said his goal is to put the foundation out of business. Parkinson's causes several symptoms that generally increase over time.

Many people are unaware that the custodial care and supervision required due to Parkinson's and related dementia are not covered by health insurance or Medicare. These costs are generally paid out-of-pocket unless a person has Long-Term Care Insurance. Medicaid, the medical welfare program, will pay for these costs for those with little or no resources.

Advance Planning Benefits Family and Finances

The sad story about Michael J. Fox underscores the need to plan for the financial costs and burdens of aging. Our health, body, and mind will change over time. Often we get little advance warning. 

Experts suggest planning in your 40s and 50s. For many American families, affordable Long-Term Care Insurance is the solution. The policy will pay for the care needed that is otherwise not paid for by health insurance and Medicare.

Start your research by reading The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide

Recommend This Page

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

Fox's health issues remind us that our health can change without notice. Plus, longevity, itself, is a risk for needing long-term care services. 

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance provides access to your choice of quality care, protecting savings and income, and easing the stress otherwise placed on your family.

As Humans We Deteriorate Over Time

All of us are human. Our bodies don't work forever; we will need help with the activities of daily living we take for granted. These are things we had to learn as an infant, including eating, bathing, using the bathroom, and more. With longevity comes cognitive decline. 

People require long-term care services and supports due to an illness, accident, or the impact of aging. Preparing for the financial costs and burdens associated with getting older is an essential part of retirement planning.

LTC Insurance is Custom Designed

Start planning before you retire. Start your research by finding the current and future cost of care in your area by using the LTC News Cost of Care Calculator. You will also discover additional information that pertains to your state. Click here to use the calculator. 

Always use an experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. The cost of Long-Term Care Insurance varies by over 100%. Using a specialist instead of a financial advisor or general insurance agent will ensure you will get accurate quotes and professional recommendations. 

Items to Discuss with a Long-Term Care Specialist

Most insurance agents and financial planners have little or no expertise in long-term care planning. Plus, they generally only represent one insurance company. Seek the help of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who represents the major companies.

Make sure any agent discusses these topics:

  • Partnership: Most states offer special policies that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection. The Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program might be one of the best-kept secrets in retirement planning. Make sure the specialist explains this program and how it might help you.
  • Tax incentives: There are federal tax incentives available for some people. If you own your own business, be sure to ask.
  • Health Savings Accounts: If you have an HSA you can use the pre-tax money in your account to pay for the premium.
  • Asset-Based or Hybrid policies: These are life insurance or annuities with a rider for long-term care. Careful, only a handful are actually a long-term care benefit. However, one of these policies can provide you with the flexibility of both a long-term care benefit or a death benefit. They are expensive but can be paid with a single premium.
  • Health and Family History: Make sure the specialist asks you detailed questions about your health, family history, and retirement plans. Underwriting criteria vary with each insurance company. If they are not asking you detailed questions, then find another specialist.

Find a trusted and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist by clicking here.

Learn about the top options available by clicking here.

Get Published on LTC NEWS

You can improve your website or blog's SEO and gain exposure and traffic at the same time by being a contributor to LTC NEWS.

Just write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. Stay on topic with articles on health, aging, caregiving, retirement planning, long-term care, and other topics that interest adults over age 40. 

You can even promote yourself, your business, and your website or blog. However, it must have editorial content exclusive for LTC NEWS and cannot be just an advertisement. It can include links to other sites, and you can share the article link once published on your website or social media.

Topics you can write about include:

  • health
  • long-term care
  • aging
  • retirement planning
  • caregiving

Email your story idea or article to: newsroom@ltcnews.com or click here.

Advertising and Marketing Opportunities on LTC NEWS

Drive traffic to your website and find the people interested in your products and services by using LTC NEWS. Plus, you can improve your website's SEO so more consumers can find you when they search for your services.

There are many marketing opportunities available. LTC NEWS can be an effective way to help you and your business. Learn more about how LTC NEWS can help you market your business, drive traffic, and improve SEO - Advertise With Us | LTC News.

Share News with LTC NEWS

 Include LTC NEWS in your press release distribution. If your group, organization, business, political committee, etc., have news to share, send it to LTC NEWS. Email -  newsroom@ltcnews.com 

Reverse Mortgages Can Be Part of a Plan

If most of your assets are tied up in your home, today's reverse mortgages might help as the solution for either funding Long-Term Care Insurance or paying for care - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

Need Care Now? Need Help with LTC Insurance Claims?

You might have a parent or other family member who needs care now. If they have a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Get free assistance in making a claim. 

LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News. You can also help find caregivers and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy or not.

LTC News Trusted & Verified

Get Accurate Quotes

Work With A Trusted Specialist

  • Has substantial experience in Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Strong understanding of underwriting, policy design, and claims experience
  • Represents all or most of all the leading insurance companies
man and woman sitting at desk
Connect With a Long-Term Care Specialist

Find Affordable Insurance and the Right Coverage.

LTC News Trusted & Verified
Learn More
  • Latest

  • Oldest

  • Homecare

  • Health

  • Government

  • Care Facilities

  • Pets

  • People

  • Lifestyle

  • Insurance

Step 1 of 4

Find a Specialist

Get Started Today

Trusted & Verified Specialists

Work with a trusted Long-Term Care Insurance Specialist Today

  • Has substantial experience in Long-Term Care Insurance
  • A strong understanding of underwriting, policy design, and claims experience
  • Represents all or most of all the leading insurance companies

LTC News Trusted & Verified

Compare Insurers


Claim this listing

Fill out this short form

Step Number:


Request Listing Edit

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Step Number:


Are you a customer of this business, or are you an employee?