I love basketball season in North Carolina: the excitement of watching All Americans play, alumni discussing who has won more national championships and of course the clutch shot that creates a big upset. The love for the game is something Judy Boggs and I bonded over immediately when I started working at Home Loving. That’s why I felt it relevant to talk about legendary basketball player and coach Pat Summitt, her story and how it relates to long-term care and our agency.
Pat’s skill and passion led her to play in college at Univ. of Tennessee at Martin and eventually to becoming the most winning coach of all times (men and women) while coaching for the infamous University of Tennessee woman’s team. Pat, however, has had to start watching from the sidelines like Judy and I this year, well kind of like us. She stepped down from her position last Spring after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Pat was only 59 years old when she decided to hang the hat on her legendary career.
Ms. Summitt’s story is central to breaking some of the myths about aging and mental disorders. It is not just “old people” that get Alzheimer’s and memory loss is not just a sign of aging. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that affects those under age 65, most commonly someone in their 50’s. The early-onset is caused by a genetic mutation in specific genes. The part that goes untold about the disease is all the effects it has on one’s life and family. Most people with Pat’s disease are unable to continue working or bring in an income for their family. Usually the burden then falls on the spouse and/or family to pay bills, do chores and provide care. Being a full time caregiver is never easy but imagine if you were still working? Had a child still at home? How would you manage it all?
Most people assume our agency only takes care of the elderly and decrepit. Our agency and other long-term care services are here for any family. We work with anyone who is trying to juggle taking care of the physical and emotional needs of someone they love and their own needs. Just like Pat and her son, Tyler, will have to one day rely on others to help with her every day needs.
Ms. Summitt is now using her position and passion in her foundation, The Pat Summit Foundation, which provides grants to non-profits that provide research, education and caregiver support for Alzheimer’s. I already admired her for her career and passion for basketball, now I am inspired by her fight for Alzheimer’s.
If you would like to read more about Pat Summitt and her foundation, go to http://www.patsummitt.org/home.aspx.