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 –

Dementia – MayoClinic


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