Frank DeFord reported on NPR this past week that former Baltimore Colts football star, John Mackey, suffers from dementia. And, due to efforts by John Mackey's wife and other players and their wives, the NFL and the player's union have started the "88 Plan" (named after Mackey's old football number). The 88 Plan assists players with dementia.
The NFL does not admit that perhaps head injuries in football and the helmuts that were worn back in the early days of the game, which were not as protective as today's helmuts, contributed to player's experiencing dementia, but at least they are willing to help now.
The NFL has also developed a comprehensive study of brain damage and dementia in players and the results will be revealed in 2010.
John Mackey's wife, Sylvia, also went back to work as a flight attendante when she was 56 to help make ends meet while caring for John, and to get the benefit of health insurance. Finally, she had to place John in a nursing home to provide for his care. Caregivers have even more challenges when caring for a physically large person, and former football players fit into this category. And, when dementia starts when someone is younger, the challenge of financially providing for care is also presented as often they continue to be healthy physically.
The "88 Plan" has now been written into the NFL's labor agreement and provides up to $88,000 a year for nursing care or day care for ex-players with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or $50,000 for home care. This will help both former football players who suffer dementia as part of aging and those who are not yet elderly.
Let's hope the NFL's move to provide for their employees who develop dementia will also spread to other industries to prevent financial devastation to families when memory loss develops - and remember that long-term care insurance, which can be purchased privately, also helps pay for these care costs.
And, cheers to Sylvia Mackey for successfully advocating for change in NFL benefits.
seniorcare, NFL, dementia senior, longtermcare,