TV Show “This is Us” Tackles Dementia

A popular TV show, “This is Us” is addressing the impact of cognitive decline on a primary character. It reminds us that the consequences of aging impact many American families.

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TV Show “This is Us” Tackles Dementia
6 Min Read August 25th, 2020 Updated:August 6th, 2021

Fans of "This Is Us" are getting excited about the sixth and final season. This TV family is experiencing many of the same problems we all have faced in recent years. 

It was season three when the character 'Rebecca Pearson' on NBC's popular TV series "This Is Us" started having what she thought were senior moments. During season four, more hints that the character, played by actress, Mandy Moore, might be losing her memory. 

If you are a fan of the show, you might remember that during the episode that aired on November 12, 2019, Rebecca started taking photos of everything she could on her phone. However, when she lost her phone, she became distraught and seemed not herself. The question became, was this Alzheimer's or just something else?

Season Five Forced Family Quarantine Due to COVID

In season five, Rebecca Pearson's was revealed. The character is suffering from a mild cognitive impairment that could lead to Alzheimer's. The Pearson family grappled with the COVID-19 virus crisis just like every other family in the country. However, Rebecca, who was scheduled to be part of an Alzheimer's trial in St Louis, could not do so because of the dangers of COVID-19. Instead, like many other people with dementia, she stayed quarantined with family.  

For fans of the show, the question is the same question many families must ask - how quickly will the dementia progress, and how will they take care of their loved one who now needs supervision and help with daily activities? Season six is expected to be the final season for the NBC-TV program.

Awareness of Dementia Risk is Essential 

Many people are unaware of the many forms of dementia that humans suffer from and the increased risk we face as we get older. Dementia is the leading reason many people require long-term care services at some point in their lifetime. We all face a decline in our health, body, and mind as we get older. 

Rebecca Pearson - This is Us

Quoted in Parade magazine, Mandy Moore says people need to be more aware of cognitive decline.

"The statistics boggled my mind. Women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as they are breast cancer—5.7 million people have it [in the United States], two-thirds of them women! Sixty-three percent of the unpaid caregivers in this country are women, and they bear all the burden and stress. I want to stand on the roof with a bullhorn and tell the world we need to be talking about this," Moore said.

In a February 2020 episode, the character was told she was probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease based on her MRI results. Like many people diagnosed with some form of dementia, she told friends and family not to treat her any differently.

What is MCI?

According to the Mayo ClinicMild cognitive impairment (MCI), which on the TV show Rebecca Pearson has been diagnosed with, is the stage between the expected memory decline that comes with getting older and a much more severe cognitive decline of dementia. MCI involves issues with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, according to Mayo.

Increasing forgetfulness is normal with the aging process, but dementia is not part of the normal process, and if you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss you should seek help from your doctor. The symptoms of 

MCI include:

  • More frequent forgetfulness
  • Forgetting important events or appointments
  • Losing your train of thought
  • Being overwhelmed by making any decisions
  • Getting lost of not knowing where you are in familiar places
  • Being more impulsive or showing poor judgment

Your family and friends will typically notice these changes in your behavior, but sometimes they fail to say or do anything about the changes. 

One reason is many seniors undergoing memory loss tend to deny any suggestions of illness or the need for support services for dementia. Another is that friends and family members might fear breaking the heart of their loved one by delivering the bad news based on their observations.

A person with MCI will feel more anxiety and may have more apathy than in the past. They sometimes will exhibit more aggressive behavior and be irritable. Often, it leads to depression.

Consequences of Dementia Impact Family and Finances

According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), a national education and advocacy group, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are the leading reason for LTC Insurance claims. 

"If you live a long life, the likelihood of dementia or Alzheimer's increases exponentially, and the importance of having some Long-Term Care Insurance in place is vital," states Jesse Slome, the executive director of the AALTCI.

Slome says that long-term care planning needs to begin well before there is the risk of needing care. 

"Far too many people call the Association once their parent has been diagnosed with some condition and their doctor suggests they look into insurance," Slome explains. "Unfortunately, even physicians don't understand that Long-Term Care Insurance is only available to those who can still meet health qualifications and pass cognitive assessments."

Health Insurance and Medicare Won't Pay for Most Extended Care

Traditional health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, will not cover the cost of long-term care; however, it will cover care planning with a medical professional, according to the Alzheimer's Association. 

The problem is traditional health insurance never covers the substantial amount of supervision and other help with daily activities that come with long-term care, including the care required from dementia. 

Planning in advance to prepare for the financial costs and burdens that come with aging and other health and accident issues is key to a successful future retirement. The cost of extended care, either in a person's home or in a facility, is staggering, even if you have a lot of assets.

You can find the current and future cost of long-term health care, including memory care, by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News.

Remember, experts say you must have reasonably good health to qualify to obtain Long-Term Care Insurance since policies are medically underwritten. The best time to plan is when you are in your 40s or 50s.

"It's so important to have an increased understanding of our own brain health, the way we think of heart health or any other body part we want to make sure is intact for the long haul," actress Moore explained.

"This Is Us" chronicles the Pearson family across the decades: from Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as young parents in the 1980s through today. 

Season six is expected to return to NBC-TV in early 2022. 

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

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