News that Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early onset dementia struck a chord with many who know all too well the challenges the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach will face. That’s because they are among the many Tennesseans who are now caring for a loved one with Alzheimer s disease, a type of dementia.
Researchers say more th an 26 million people are living with Alzheimer’s — a progressive disease that robs patients of their most precious memories and intellect before finally claiming their lives. But it is not only those who are afflicted with this insidious disease who suffer. So do their spouses, children and other family members who often serve as primary caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s takes a heavy toll on caregivers, many of whom are still working full time and raising children. These care providers are subject to great stress that can lead to their own health problems.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be a 24-hour-a-day job. Caregivers often find themselves in denial about the disease, such as discounting how far the disease has progressed in a loved one. Those who care for an Alzheimer’s patient might also express anger that no cure for the disease exists, or find themselves feeling anxious or depressed by the duty they have undertaken. Thankfully, there are support groups in the area that can lend a hand to those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent place to learn about these services. Call the association’s local chapter at 928-4080, or go online at www.alz.org/altn â€‰ to find out more.
Have you cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s? If so, we want to hear from you. Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@ johnsoncitypress.comâ€‰. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks. You also can go to www.johnsoncitypressâ€‰.com to cast a vote in the online poll. Results of the poll and comments from readers will appear on this page Sept. 13.