Celebrities with Alzheimer’s in the news: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Not normally a sports fan, there are some nuggets of information even I can’t avoid. Like the incredible record of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team.  So, when I read today that their long-time coach, Pat Summitt, has early onset Alzheimer’s (she’s only 59), the news was like a slap in the face.  That’s the “bad” – a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is never good, right?

But the courage Ms. Summitt displayed in opening up to the public, while saying that she’ll continue to coach as long as it makes sense, certainly strikes me as the “good.”  One of my mantra’s is, after all public awareness!  Visibility!  Information!  The very pleadings that were expressed during the recent NAPA listening session held in San Francisco on August 10th!

And, here’s another one: I must have missed it, but Glen Campbell announced in June that he has Alzheimer’s.  He’s still engaged in his music and has a new album coming out on August 30th.  Again, the “good” and the “bad.”

I thank these two celebrities for not hiding behind a veil.  They and their loved ones are not afraid of speaking out.  It’s about time!  All of this helps us beat down the stigma we know is associated with Alzheimer’s.

What’s also buried in these stories is that these two individuals know that their lives are defined by what they can do, not by what they can’t (and they are supported in their belief by those who live and work with them).  And, they can do a lot!  This is another powerful message worth repeating.

Unfortunately, the “ugly” intrudes whenever we talk about Alzheimer’s, especially in these horrible economic times.  While Ms. Summitt and Mr. Campbell will probably never be in the situation of depending on Medi-Cal for the home care that they most certainly will need in the future, we need to remember those that are hurt by the slashed budgets that define our times.

Millions suffering with physical or mental disabilities need assistance if they are to live independently. Otherwise, their safety and health are compromised and any semblance of quality of life is hard to find. Yet, recent State cuts, not only in California, but across the country, are slicing home health care (including adult day health care) to smithereens.  Such cuts often mean independent life is no longer possible and institutionalized care is not far behind.  Even the elimination of one program, such as meal delivery, can be enough to require institutionalization.   Yet, these cuts are popular targets and wind up on the chopping block.

Look at what California is doing.  When 35,000 seniors are tossed out of one of the 330 adult day health centers they and their families have relied on, they’re told that a “transition plan will provide an alternate program.”  The problem is that this so-called alternate program has not been defined and seems to rely on a managed health care system that has no experience in dealing with the needs of people with Alzheimer’s.

Consider this:  According to a 2010 survey by MetLife Inc., the price of an adult day health center is $67 a day on average, compared with $229 a day for a private room at a nursing home.  Considering that a large percentage of those accessing day health care services are at risk for institutionalization, this certainly does not make economic sense to me.  What’s your opinion?

3 Responses

  1. My father died of Alzheimer’s several years ago, and my mother has dementia. We were able to keep them together in their assisted living apartment by hiring additional caregivers. Thank you for the balanced article. Alzheimer’s and dementia is affecting so many families. The more we talk and share, the better we will all be.

  2. Kim Tinoco says:

    My mother is in a mid stage of alzheimers disease.
    Sad that there is not much help or affordable assistance out there.
    We live in Hawaii.
    We need a cure for this.What a horrible disease.

  3. Murad says:

    Dad is now in his 8th year of Alzheimers. Caught it at the beginning of stage 1. No meds will make it go away. In yr #5 we itonced he shuffled just a tad while walking. Well, it gets worse. He can not walk as of 3 mo ago. Is 100% incontinent now, remembers only me, my mom, and sister by name. Barely talks, cannot converse anymore. He is entering stage 7. My advice if you have it is take vacations, write down memories to your kids, make peace with God, enjoy every sec with your family, its vital

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