Wednesday, August 24, 2011
She's to be recognized for her willingness to come out and admit her diagnosis. A cure will only be found through awareness. No shame here, just tough as nails....I LUV IT!
Alzheimer’s disease experts Tuesday hailed Pat Summitt for her decisions to go public with her diagnosis of early onset dementia, the Alzheimer’s type — and to go forth with her coaching career.
“She deserves tremendous credit for announcing her illness,” says John Morris, a physician and director of the Alzheimer’s disease research center at Washington University in St. Louis who is not involved in her treatment. “This under scores the point that people who are not older can also get dementia. It is key for others to know by recognizing and diagnosing early she, and others, can still function at a very high level for some time to come.”
Summitt, 59, has led the Tennessee women’s basketball program to eight national championships. After experiencing several months of erratic behavior, Summitt went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., several months ago where she was tested and told she had the early Alzheimer’s type dementia.
Morris says early onset dementia is a “rare inherited genetic disease” and strikes people younger than 65. Among the 4 to 5 million people in the USA who have a form of dementia, only about 5% have the early onset form, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Summitt told The Knoxville News Sentinel her grandmother had severe dementia.
Morris is conducting research at Washington University on young people affected by the rare form. While symptoms can appear as early as the 20s, the average of people in their research is 45.
“In the earliest changes, the impairment can be quite subtle,’’ says Morris. “She may still be able to have the cognitive capacity to understand basketball strategy and adjust to differences in the game. She may need to rely more on her associates to assist her in that but it doesn't mean she's suddenly incapacitated.”
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but several pharmaceutical therapies help control symptoms. Early symptoms include forgetfulness, personality changes and poor judgment.
“It’s a fatal disease,” Morris says, “From the time of diagnosis to death averages seven to nine years. She's younger, so it may not progress at that rate. She might tolerate it much longer than if she'd been older.”
She has other assets working in her favor, according to Deborah Barnes, a dementia expert at the University of California at San Francisco.
“She’s obviously had an active lifestyle and takes good care of herself,” says Barnes. “It’s important to have a good diet and stay as active as possible. That will pay off for her.”
By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY
My name is Rhonda Brantley and my husband, Billy Ray Brantley, suffers from Early Onset Alzheimer's Dementia. This is the best shot we have at documenting daily living.