University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt and recording artist Glen Campbell are the latest in a long list of celebrities diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, an incurable disease that gradually causes a decline in a person’s cognitive abilities. The 59-year-old Summitt informed her fans and followers in a video of her decision to continue coaching. Campbell, who is 75, made his disclosure while announcing his worldwide “Goodbye Tour” planned for 2012.
By discussing their conditions, these public figures helped to enlighten the public about Alzheimer’s, just as past generations have gained greater insights into the disease from celebrities such as Norman Rockwell, Charlton Heston, Barry Goldwater and Rita Hayworth. In announcing his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in a letter to the American people, former President Ronald Reagan wrote, “In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition.”
Persons who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are encouraged to open their hearts to friends and family when discussing this disease. A few helpful suggestions from the Alzheimer’s Association include:
- Explain that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging but a disease of the brain that results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior.
- Share educational information on Alzheimer’s or invite your family and friends to attend Alzheimer’s education programs.
- Be honest about how you feel regarding your diagnosis and allow other family members to do the same.
- Assure friends that although the disease will change your life, you want to continue enjoying their company.
- Let your family and friends know when and how you may need their help and support.
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