Underestimating the Odds of Disability – The Importance of Being Prepared (part 1 of 6)

Underestimating the Odds of Disability

No one likes to think about the possibility of their own disability or the disability of a loved one. However, as the statistics below demonstrate, we should all plan for at least a temporary disability. This post kicks off a series of posts in which I will take a look at the eye-opening statistics surrounding disability and some of the common disability planning options.

Most People Will Face At Least a Temporary Disability

Study after study confirms that nearly everyone will face at least a temporary disability sometime during their lifetime. More specifically, one in three Americans will face at least a 90-day disability before reaching age 65 and, depending on their ages, up to 44% of Americans will face a disability of up to 4.7 years. On the whole, Americans are up to 3.5 times more likely to become disabled than die in any given year.

Roughly 12% of the total U.S. population was classified as disabled in the  2010 census.  Especially surprising is the fact that more than 50% of those disabled Americans are in their working years (ages 18-64). In December 2012, for example, more than 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s received SSDI (disability) benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

For Many, the Disability is Long-Term

Unfortunately, for many Americans the disability will not be short-lived. According to the 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, over 1.46 million Americans received long term home health care services at any given time in 2007 (the most recent year this information is available). Three-fourths of these patients received skilled care, the highest level of in-home care, and a majority needed help with at least one “activity of daily living” ( a category that includes tasks such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, or the kind of care needed for a severe cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease). The average length of service was more than 300 days, and 69% of in-home patients were 65 years of age or older. Patient age is particularly important as more Americans live past age 65. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging tells us that overall numbers of Americans over 65 are increasing at an impressive rate:

The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 9 million Americans over age 65 would need long-term care in 2015. That number is expected to increase to 12 million by 2020. I, for one, was especially shocked to learn that an estimated that 70% of all people age 65 or older will need some type of long term care services during their lifetime!

The Impact of Disability

The Council for Disability Awareness provide a metric called the PDQ, or “Personal Disability Quotient” which allows people to calculate their own risk of disability.  Here are a couple of startling examples:

“A typical female, age 35, 5’4″, 125 pounds, non-smoker, who works mostly an office job, with some outdoor physical responsibilities, and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:

  • A 24% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during her working career; with a 38% chance that the disability would last 5 years or longer, and with the average disability for someone like her lasting 82 months.
  • If this same person used tobacco and weighed 160 pounds, the risk would increase to a 41% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.

“A typical male, age 35, 5’10″, 170 pounds, non-smoker, who works an office job, with some outdoor physical responsibilities, and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:

  • A 21% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during his working career; with a 38% chance that the disability would last 5 years or longer, and with the average disability for someone like him lasting 82 months.
  • If this same person used tobacco and weighed 210 pounds, the risk would increase to a 45% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.

Visit the Council for Disability Awareness website at http://www.whatsmypdq.org/ to calculate your PDQ.

Check back tomorrow for more about the risks for Alzheimer’s and the toll it takes on caregivers.

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