Medical Minute: Legendary coach Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s

Yesterday, the sports world was rocked by the heartbreaking news that legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. The winner of eight national NCAA titles with the Tennessee Vols is only 59.

Imagine being 59 and finding out that you will soon wear adult diapers and be unable to care for yourself or maintain control of your most basic bodily functions.

The diagnosis was made after the Hall of Fame coach said she visited with doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., after the end of the 2010-11 basketball season.

When Ms. Summitt was given her diagnosis she said she reacted with anger and depression. Then she accepted her diagnosis and eventually shared it with her student athletes. She told them she plans to continue coaching with the aide of her assistant coaches.

“I plan to continue to be your coach,” Summitt said. “Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days.”

Next to cancer, dementia is the worst type of diagnosis for an energetic woman like Pat Summitt who is so full of life.

Dementia is a gradual loss of cognitive function (altered thought process) which leads to chronic memory loss and disorganized thinking. The onset of the disease usually begins after age 65 and can lead to Alzheimer’s disease within 10 years of diagnosis. Dementia is rare under age 65.

The symptoms usually include short term memory loss (forgetting your address for a few seconds), periods of mental exhaustion and disorientation (briefly forgetting what day it is or where you are); paranoid delusions (you believe someone is tapping your phone); and impaired problem solving/learning skills.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown. Dementia can be caused by the aging process and specific diseases that relate to aging.

It is believed that recreational use of street drugs at a younger age (namely cocaine, weed); some prescription drugs, and, or alcohol may be contributing factors to dementia and Alzheimer’s later on in life. Family history of Alzheimer’s is also a strong factor.

Young adults (under 50) who suffer from memory loss may actually be depressed or experiencing anxiety as a result of recreational drug or alcohol use.

Diagnosis of dementia includes blood work, brain scans, brain biopsy and the patient’s explanation of her symptoms.

Treatment includes antidepressants, anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medications, which include Haldol, a drug that has terrible side effects for elderly patients with sundown syndrome at night.

This has been your Medical Minute. Please consult with your personal physician if you believe you may have the symptoms described in this post.

More Info On The Web

Dementia – WebMD

Dementia – Medicinenet.com

Dementia – MayoClinic

DISCLAIMER

Any medical advice published on this blog is for your general information only and is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not take any action before consulting with your personal physician or a health care provider. Sandrarose.com and its affiliates cannot be held liable for any damages incurred by following advice found on this blog.



 


36 Responses to “Medical Minute: Legendary coach Pat Summitt diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s”

  1. 1
    flsun99 says:

    Sandra…what is sundown syndrome at night?

  2. 2
    Honycoatd says:

    Wow!!!

    59 is pretty young. I wonder what brought that on.

    I hope she can be back in good health soon.

  3. 3
    FeFe says:

    Awww, that’s really sad. I’m sorry to hear…she is VERY young to have this disease… :pray: for her and her family…

  4. 4
    flsun99 says:

    How can a person function with the Treatment which includes antidepressants, anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medications, which include Haldol? That sounds like a lot.

  5. 5
    vero says:

    Wow that’s very sad :no:

  6. 6
    Chocolatte says:

    That’s really sad, she is a great coach.

  7. 7
    Mamacita says:

    Wow! :(

    Hell those medications sound like they would make it worse!

    My Parents are 60/61 and I couldn’t imagine them going through this. :pray:

  8. 8
    KDub says:

    I cried about this dayum near this morning when it was on Good Morning America. Coach Summitt is THAT CHICK. Prayers out to her.

  9. 9
    bigtyme says:

    s/n: until i read this story yesterday and did some research, i had no idea she had a husband up until a few years ago. on topic: the dementia news explains her recent erratic behavior. how sad

  10. 10
    !*LaKErCHiC@*! says:

    SAD NEWS WOW SHE IS KINDA YOUNG…

  11. 11
    mrsloveleigh says:

    sad news.

  12. 12

    @BIG TYME

    I never knew she had a “husband” either. At least not one that was male. But they were talkin bout one of her kids and I was like: :blink:

    Anyway, she the chit at coaching that b-ball so I hope she can give some more good years.

    Dean Smith (Michael Jordan’s/North Carolina’s former coach) also suffers from this and few other former coaches whose name slips my mind. Hmmm…

  13. 13
    candibfly says:

    dean smith :cheer:

    anyway, this is sad :(

  14. 14
    KDub says:

    Dean Smith (Michael Jordan’s/North Carolina’s former coach) also suffers from this
    ————————————————————-
    :wail: Ms. Linnea (his wife) keeps Dean closed up in his house these days. SO SAD. He is in BAD shape from what folks report. Then again Coach Smith is 80…not 60…

  15. 15
    Krissy says:

    This is sad!!!!….Depending on how it progresses and the dosage of meds needed, she won’t be Able to coach long! It seem like once u are diagnose it progresses faster my grandma was lfrom just forgetting things,

  16. 16
    Anna says:

    flsun99 says:

    Sandra…what is sundown syndrome at night?

    ~~~~~~~
    I don’t know either. Will google. My guess is the body thinks it’s night time all day. brb.

  17. 17

    WOW I hope she can turn this into a miracle for her – and her WILL to continue to coach will keep her strong!

  18. 18
    Krissy says:

    And once the doctor diagnose her it was down hill!!…….

  19. 19
    Anna says:

    Anna says:

    flsun99 says:

    Sandra…what is sundown syndrome at night?

    ~~~~~~~
    I don’t know either. Will google. My guess is the body thinks it’s night time all day.
    ~~~~~
    I was so wrong. This deserves a Medical Minute.

  20. 20
    Krissy says:

    *sorry trying to type from a phone and holding a baby……

  21. 21
    flawless001 says:

    Imagine being 59 and finding out that you will soon wear adult diapers and be unable to care for yourself or maintain control of your most basic bodily functions

    ————————————————————————

    :rofl: that part not sound sympathetic, but this is Sad.

  22. 22
    flawless001 says:

    ^^ do not sound

  23. 23
    WUTWUZMISSIN! says:

    I think sun downers or sun down sydrome is people who exibit dementia or it gets worse in the evening. It will last until sun up the next day…

  24. 24
    RoderickXYZ says:

    Man, I just don’t care™ says:
    @BIG TYME
    I never knew she had a “husband” either. At least not one that was male. But they were talkin bout one of her kids and I was like:
    ________________________________________________________________________

    Yeah she’s pretty much the protypical bull dyke. I read an article about her yesterday and she said that one of her grandmothers (can’t remember if it was paternal or maternal) had severe dementia.

    BTW I noticed that she has the striking blue eyes and wondered if there is a link between eye color and dementia. I have noticed (anecdotally) that more light-skinned blacks than dark skinned blacks get dementia. I wonder if dementia is connected to melanin content or maybe melanin protects against dementia.

  25. 25
    Jay Bee says:

    Pat Summit my fav coach.. Im sure God will give you strength

  26. 26
    Dawn Sheen says:

    I am a HUGE fan of Coach Summitt and the Vols. Thanks Sandra for the psot… Unfortunately this is yet another example of the cycle of life. Our bodies are temples which will erode naturally but faster without proper care. Be mindful of your family history so that you know what to anticipate as you get older. I am predisposed for sugar, pressure (which I have… damn precclampsia), the Alz.. and the deme.. I look forward to acting a fool when I get older…

  27. 27
    Sandra Rose says:

    flsun99 says:

    Sandra…what is sundown syndrome at night?
    __________________

    Sundown syndrome, or sundowner’s syndrome occurs mainly after the sun goes down. It affects elderly people and young adults with dementia. It is believed that the symptoms of dementia (confusion) are increased at night after the sun goes down because humans are not nocturnal creatures and we are oriented by the sun. The symptoms usually disappear about an hour after sunrise in the morning.

  28. 28
    chibytex says:

    It is believed that recreational use of street drugs at a younger age (namely cocaine, weed); some prescription drugs, and, or alcohol may be contributing factors to dementia and Alzheimer’s later on in life. Family history of Alzheimer’s is also a strong factor.
    ___________________________________________
    :crying: I guess Im on the path to Dementia then….

    That’s sad about her…dementia is sad way to go…my stepmother’s dad died of that…he damn near burned down his house cause he forgot he was cooking…after that they put him in a nursing home and it was downhill from there…Its sad to see a person so vibrant and active just depreciate like that….

  29. 29
    KDub says:

    I knew she had a husband. They got divorced a few years ago and it was a big question on if she would change her name. She has mad stuff named in her honor on UT campus and her alma mater too.

  30. 30
    trenee says:

    Poor Pat. She will still be phenomenal!

  31. 31
    flsun99 says:

    Sandra Rose says:

    flsun99 says:

    Sandra…what is sundown syndrome at night?
    __________________

    Sundown syndrome, or sundowner’s syndrome occurs mainly after the sun goes down. It affects elderly people and young adults with dementia. It is believed that the symptoms of dementia (confusion) are increased at night after the sun goes down because humans are not nocturnal creatures and we are oriented by the sun. The symptoms usually disappear about an hour after sunrise in the morning.

    ***********

    Thank you Sandra! I just love this site. I learn something new daily!

  32. 32
    GAGIRL87 says:

    One of my friends aunt has alzheimers and she doesn’t even rememeber any of them. I couldn’t imagine going through this with my mom it has to be hard when the person who rasied you doesn’t even know your name or remember you… That would be devasting within itself :crying:

  33. 33
    Yardgirl says:

    Daaayum, that is so sad!! Her and her team are one of our, UConn’s, biggest rivals, but it’s all love and respect for all the women of BB. I wish her all the best but this must be hard to bear know what is to come :crying:

  34. 34
    Daisy says:

    One of my great aunts has alzheimers(sp) she is 90 she has good and bad days but she only really remembers her hubby (her ex hubby just turned 100 and is in great health). My gma lived to be 91 and was in right mind my heart goes out to all dealing w/fam mbrs who don’t remember them :pray:

    God bless the Summit fam

    #teamCoachK :cheer:

  35. 35
    TPtotalpackage says:

    This is sad. Alzheimer’s is truly a heart breaking disease. It is especially hard on family members. I remember my great-grandmother and her brother’s battle with this disease. My family is very close and I spent alot of time with my great-grandma and great-great uncle during their battle. What was amazing is that in the end the only people they remembered was each other. It was very comforting to feel like they were in it together. They also died within a month of each other.

    Speaking of Alzheimer’s has anyone heard how Tiny’s father is doing?

  36. 36
    Yall still crazy says:

    :applause: to Coach Summit

    There are excellent meds out there now! I am happy that she spoke out and perhaps others will get tested and then that way more people will get treated and less people will be out here undiagnosed.

    :pray: that her family stays strong and prays. The road ahead may be long, but if you take that road together you all will thrive as a family! The patient suffers, but the family and caregivers are the ones that see their loved ones slowing slipping away and they usually tend to not take care of themselves (because they are selfless and arent thinking about themselves, only the sick loved one). Caregivers, take time for yourself and allow yourself a break to get rejuvenated…

    :hug: for the family and caregivers…

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