Sandra Day O'Connor Diagnosed with Dementia

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced she has dementia. She is a growing list of people who now must deal with the physical, emotional and financial burdens that come with longevity and long-term care.

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Sandra Day O'Connor Diagnosed with Dementia
4 Min Read October 23rd, 2018 Updated:January 25th, 2020

In a statement released on October 23, 2018, by the United States Supreme Court, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced she had been diagnosed with dementia, most likely Alzheimer's. According to the statement, she will withdraw from public life.

"Since many people have asked about my current status and activities, I want to be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts," O'Connor said in the statement. 

O'Connor was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, whom himself was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She said her doctors some time ago made the diagnosis, which necessitated her withdrawal from public life because of her condition.

O'Connor Served on Alzheimer's Task Force

Ironically, in 2009 O'Connor, along with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Surgeon General David Satcher, was on a task force that studied Alzheimer's and the impact it will have, because of longevity, on American families and the U.S. health care system. 

The report showed that Alzheimer's would overwhelm the nation's health-care system. Today, as Generation X and late-boomers join the baby-boomers in longevity, more people will need help with everyday living activities and require long-term care services and supports. This includes supervision due to those who suffer from cognitive decline.

“Sandra Day O’Connor exemplifies excellence in public service, & she continues to be a role model to women & an inspiration to young people. I am saddened to hear of my friend’s diagnosis, but not surprised she is facing it with the strength & bravery that have defined her life,” said Sen Susan Collins (R-ME).

O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan on August 19, 1981, fulfilling his campaign promise to appoint the first woman to the highest court in the United States. On September 21, O'Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0.

On July 1, 2005, she announced her intention to retire. In her letter to President George W. Bush, she said her retirement would take effect upon the confirmation of her successor. On July 19, Bush nominated D.C. Circuit Judge John Roberts to succeed O'Connor, who was later confirmed.

President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in July of 2009.

Media reports say she had begun having issues with short-term memory and that she primarily used a wheelchair, owing to hip problems, so her public life was scaled back. The Alzheimer's Association says Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of cases. Worldwide, nearly 44 million people have Alzheimer's or related dementia. 

Alzheimer's (and other forms of dementia) is one of the leading causes of long-term care.16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for those who suffer from this condition. Paid care is substantial and drains the assets of American families. Health insurance and Medicare will not pay for most of this type of care. Those with Long-Term Care Insurance can benefit from professional care at home or in a facility. Every 65 seconds, a person gets diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Loved Ones Face Challenges When Caring for Family Member with Dementia

The impact on family caregivers is tremendous, physically, emotionally, and even financially. Caregiving is very hard on family members. These caregivers must balance their own lives, careers, and family responsibilities with caregiving. 

This care, in addition to supervision, helps a person with normal living activities they can no longer do on their own. Generally, the needs of those who have dementia are greater than normal aging care. 

Affordable LTC Insurance Essential for Family and Finances

Experts recommend Long-Term Care Insurance should be part of a retirement plan. These affordable policies provide tax-free resources for quality care, at home, or at a facility. In addition to protecting savings and income, they reduce the burdens placed on family members.

People require long-term care services due to an illness, accident, or the impact of aging. Dementia is a significant reason people require care. Supervision is an important part of the care provided by a Long-Term Care policy.

Most long-term care services are not paid for by health insurance, or for those who are age 65 and older, Medicare and supplements. Only Long-Term Care Insurance provides the resources for families can protect their savings, lifestyle, and legacy. 

LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator Helpful in Planning

Start your research by using the LTC NEWS cost of care calculator.  The calculator will show you the current and future cost of care services where you live. You will also see a state-by-state breakdown of available tax incentives and the availability of partnership plans which provide additional dollar-for-dollar asset protection. 

Click here for the calculator.

Most states offer Partnership plans which provide additional asset protection. Federal and some state tax incentives are also available for some people. 

Work with a Long-Term Care specialist who understands these products, underwriting, and claims. You can find a specialist by clicking here.

The best time to start planning is before retirement. When you are in your 40s and 50s, you can better able to take advantage of low premiums and good health discounts. 


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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

Long-Term Care Insurance is underwritten based on your health history at the time you apply for coverage. This history includes the medications you are taking both now and in the recent past. Some companies consider some limited family history as part of the underwriting process. 

Depending on your age, you might have to pass a cognitive screen to determine if you are having current issues with your memory.

Every company has different rules. You will have to answer many questions to get an accurate quote from a qualified Long-Term Care specialist. If the insurance agent or financial advisor ask few if any questions about your health and family history you will not get accurate information.

You can find many resources and tools on LTC NEWS to help you with your initial research. Be sure to start early. Click here to uncover these resources. 

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