Only five short years ago, winningest college basketball coach Pat Summitt announced that she was struggling with young/early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, she has died at age 64. While Summitt’s family, the Lady Volunteers basketball team and the entire University of Tennessee community mourn her death, there is much that all generations can learn from this moment:
1) Dementia impacts persons of all generations. Summitt was 59 years old when she was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s disease. While early onset dementias are rare, it is not a condition that only impacts our elderly. Approximately 200,000 Americans are living with early/young onset Alzheimer’s disease (symptoms before age 65). But there are also many more persons of younger generations living with early onset dementia as the result of other conditions like Lewy Body Dementia, Huntington’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.
2) The Millennial generation is being impacted by caregiving. 25-year Tyler, Summitt’s only child, was only 20 years old when his Mom was diagnosed. This is not so unusual. According to AARP, about 25% of all caregivers are currently Millennials.
3) Employees of all generations may encounter young onset dementia at the workplace—with subordinates, supervisors, vendors and even customers. Symptoms of young onset dementia include more than memory loss. For example, dressing inappropriately for business meetings, getting lost on the way to work or behaving in a way that is out of character for that person are red flags. Know that symptoms like these can come and go. If a colleague is fine today but behaving erratically tomorrow—that could signal a problem.
My new book Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One can help those finding themselves in the role of caregiving or simply wanting to better understand what’s normal aging vs. dementia symptoms. To pre-order or find out more information about the book, please check out: www.cruisingthroughcaregiving.com.