Meryl Comer Lends Her Support
Industry Perspective Catching up with the Emmy award-winning reporter, president of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative and full-time caregiver.
Mediaplanet: How did your husband's early Alzheimer's diagnosis affect you financially?
Meryl Comer: My physician husband was 57 years old when diagnosed, and I was forced to leave my career to care for him. Right then and there, you have two adults in their prime, out of work, and forced to draw down on their personal savings. Medicare pays for acute, not long-term chronic disease, so all costs are out of pocket. The average life span from AD diagnosis to death is eight years. We’re into year 18 and his care is 24/7. Now my 85-year-old mother has it, too. Run the numbers; it’s bankrupting.
MP: How can people prepare for long-term illness?
"Seventy percent of the 15 million unpaid caregivers are women; and many will say the same thing. “What happens to them if something happens to me?”
MC: We Baby Boomers like to think of ourselves as ageless, but we are all at risk. Most are already strapped financially because they haven’t planned for their future, and long-term chronic diseases are six times as costly to treat. My husband had no long-term care insurance when he got sick. He said our portfolio gave us a cushion. Wrong! I tell women everywhere to protect themselves by buying long-term care insurance. Buy it young and never cash out.
MP: How do you balance your husband's needs with your own?
MC: What balance? Seventy percent of the 15 million unpaid caregivers are women; and many will say the same thing. “What happens to them if something happens to me?” My women friends take me out to “breathe.” My grandchildren are my “anti-depressant of choice,” and I’ve flipped the pain by becoming an advocate.
Alzheimer’s is the biggest women’s issue since breast cancer. We outlive men statistically, are more prone to get it, and we are the caregivers.
MP: What is the 21st Centry BrainTrust™?
MC: We are moving the conversation away from the stigma and denial about brain diseases to one focused on optimal health. But we must be able to measure our cognitive health. Now, thanks to wireless technology, we have self-administered, mobile apps that can track our brain health. We must all become citizen scientists and help researchers in the fight against cognitive disorders. That’s the future.