Alzheimer’s Not Playing Favorites: Pat Summitt Diagnosed

by on March 7th, 2015
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COMMENTARY | Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that I would not wish on my worst enemy. The news of the diagnosis of University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was shocking to many and sad to all.

Summitt is only 59 years old, and she has been the face of women’s basketball, helping to bring the sport into the limelight. She has won eight national championships, and has been with the Lady Vols for 39 seasons. How often is that seen in sports, let alone an average career? She is a rare and exceptional woman but, unfortunately, Alzheimer’s can take hold of anyone; many times it takes control of some of the most amazing people on earth.

In a letter to the university, Summitt wrote, “I plan to continue to be your coach. Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days. For that reason, I will be relying on my outstanding coaching staff like never before,” USA Today reports.

Summitt is a strong woman who will have the support of the team and her colleagues. She will likely have to rely on many of her assistants — some days will be worse than others — but hopefully she will have some time before she ultimately retires from the game she loves.

Famed country singer Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this year. In a recent interview with CBS News, Campbell said, “I ain’t felt anything yet – when’s it gonna get here?”

Often times, it is only those close to the patient who notice their early symptoms. When Campbell was asked his age, he answered 78. His wife had to correct him as he was three years off. Campbell is 75.

The ravaging effects of Alzheimer’s aren’t only felt by the patient; it takes a toll on their loved ones as well. The stress of having to care for someone with Alzheimer’s is physically and emotionally demanding. It’s important for those in a support role to be surrounded with family or friends who can help when it’s time for a much-needed break.

In addition to the stress of being a caregiver, they have to deal with the fact that a stranger is taking over the person they have known and loved for years. In a way, it’s like coping with a death that hasn’t actually happened yet.

Although Summitt and Campbell and their families likely have the financial resources to make things a little easier, the emotional issues will be as difficult for them as anyone else. I wish them and their loved ones only the best.

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