Kudos to Pat Summitt, age 59, for the way she is facing her newest competition, early onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. She wondered at her erratic behavior and got herself checked out at Mayo Clinic. She didn’t hide from reality. By not hiding, and by forcing others to face her reality as well, she’s setting a great example for respecting the truth. Once you have answers, you can start to pick among whatever options are available to you. You make sure you stay in charge by making sure others are prepared for when you can’t perform any more. And you show respect for those others as well, not forcing them to find ways to “work around” you.
Ms. Summitt has made a valiant choice. It’s not easy to do what she did, to run after the enemy, to chase it down rather than hide from it. She has opened herself up even as she asks for people to respect her privacy going forward. None of this will be easy for anyone, but at least she has made it less difficult on her loved ones and the people she works with. Honesty takes strength of character, and she seems to have it one hundredfold.
Books? There aren’t any I know about that will help you figure out if you have dementia, since that takes professionally administered tests, both mental and physical. There are many books on caregiving, however. I think the one that is considered the “bible” is probably The 36-Hour Day, now in its Fourth Edition (authors Mace and Rabins, published by Johns Hopkins University Press).
Additionally, too often, people are told they have Alzheimer’s when, in fact, they have some other form of dementia. Or they hear the word Alzheimer’s and just want to die. I haven’t read it, but there’s a book called The Myth of Alzheimers (authors Whitehouse and George, publisher Johns Hopkins University Press) that may be worth checking into. From my Web searching, it seems not to deny that Alzheimer’s exists but to give the reader a way to understand the whole concept of aging and dementia in general. The authors have a terrific blog worth visiting.
Cautionary Note: Too often, dementia is diagnosed without concern for how the statement of diagnosis itself will affect the recipient(s). If you or a loved one receives this diagnosis without proper concern for how it’s hitting you, seek out more support.