In addition to the effects of medical conditions on cognition, age is an important factor as well. We joke about this phenomenon routinely, calling it such things as “senior moment,” “memory fart,” “CRS (Can’t Remember Sh*t),” among other things. Age contributing to cognitive decline is very real, however, and in some cases is extremely serious.
Long term disability insurance companies NEVER take into account the effects of aging on a person’s physical, psychological, cognitive, or vocational status. They just ignore it, as it can only weigh against their liability to pay benefits.
What Happens to the Healthy, Aging Brain
Cognitive decline begins in late adulthood and accelerates with increasing age. As people age, their brains shrink and white matter suffers demyelination. We gradually lose brain cells from birth and process information more slowly. This makes processing information, learning new concepts and patterns more difficult, and results in failing memory. In addition, the aging brain is vulnerable to oxidative stress with increasing inflammatory response, which can only make the situation worse.
Episodic memory (involving conscious sense of remembering) is affected. The more a memory process requires self-directed strategies such as organizing lists, keeping items in mind, keeping goal-irrelevant information out of mind, or creating new associations that can be used later as retrieval cues, the more likely to be affected by aging. Complex working memory is also affected by age, as are memory retrieval and word finding.
The abilities to concentrate and pay attention also decline with age. Aging is associated with a decrease in the ability to inhibit irrelevant information, causing older adults to be less able to regulate their attention and processing of distracting information. As people age, they difficulty shifting focus from one thought process to another.
The Aging Brain and Disability
If you suffer from a long-term disability that affects your cognitive function, the aging process can often hyper-accelerate your cognitive impairment. We represent many disabled clients who experience accelerated cognitive decline as they age. Often, the decline is increased because of, for example, a disease, long-term medication usage, unremitting pain, or a psychiatric condition.
In these circumstances, it is important for your counsel and your health care professionals to consider the impact of aging on your long-term disability claim, and to use it, when appropriate, to advocate for the payment or continuation of your long-term disability benefits.
If you have questions or need assistance in with the cognitive aspect of a long-term disability claim, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Evan S. Schwartz
Founder of Schwartz, Conroy & Hack