Pat Summit Steps Down Due To Early Onset Alzheimer’s

Posted by Kia Crawford on April 20th, 2012 in Mind | 1 Comment

Yesterday, an icon in women’s basketball, Pat Summit,  stepped down from the head coach position she held for 38 years. She ends with a record of 1,098-208. She earned 8 national championships with 22 final four visits. She is the most revered coach in all of women’s basketball, and I would not ruffle many feathers by suggesting, that perhaps, she is the all time greatest coach of any sport.  She is a legend. But last year, she noticed changes. The change was gradual, but nevertheless she was different. Sadly, at the age of 58, Summit learned she had early onset Alzheimer’s.

Early Onset Alzheimer’s

Early onset Alzheimer’s affects people younger than 65. It accounts for less than 5% of the 5.4 million people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. Early onset Alzheimer’s can affect people in their 30s, but it is seen more often in people in their 40s and 50s. Typically, individuals with early onset are in the prime of their careers and are still raising families, which makes the diagnosis even more devastating. Many believe that Alzheimer’s is a disease of old age, but younger adults are being diagnosed with early onset. Early onset Alzheimer’s has the same characteristics normal Alzheimer’s found in older adults.  Just like Alzheimer’s in older adults, early onset involves the deterioration of brain cells resulting in loss of memory significantly impacting life skills and daily living. However, with early onset it takes place in the prime of  life. Residents in our Inspirations neighborhood at Dogwood Forest Assisted Living in Alpharetta, Ga., are assisted with activities of daily living, and often participate in life skills they once knew. Often, in mid stages of Alzheimer’s,  there is still recollection of a past career or events that occurred while raising children.

Unfortunately, there is not a definitive test to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Physicians review a patients symptoms to determine if a patient has Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Dogwood Forest Assisted Living in Alpharetta, Ga. is educated on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and work with family’s and doctors to monitor changes in a residents behavior.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms from the Alzheimer’s Association

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

Summit will remain on the staff of the Tennessee Volts as head coach Emeritus continue her role as a mentor to the Lady Vol’s players, and will report to the director of athletics. She is on medications for her condition and continues to engage in activities that stimulate the brain working on puzzles at night before she goes to bed. However, she knows the cognitive decline is a gradual process.  Summit says she is relieved to know what she is dealing with and it’s not going to stop her from living her life. She will also continue to be a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association. As for leaving her position of 38 years, Summit is happy about her decision to step down, and she knows the team is in good hands passing the torch to long time assistant coach, Holly Warlick. I’m sure Warlick is honored to get  the torch from a legend.