After last week’s inaugural blog, I set out to outline the themes for the first couple of month’s worth of blogs. Nothing was set in stone, and I did want to stay flexible enough to capture life’s little quirks and news updates whenever possible. I really want this blog to be relevant and timely.
So the blog I thought I was writing this week is pushed back to a later date. This blog does have elements of some of the upcoming themes, like transitions, planning for the future, and offering resources. I did not think my next blog, however, would be touching on Alzheimer’s and caregiving…at least not this soon. And I was certainly not planning on leading off with a sports-related story.
I thought about Tuesday’s announcement by Pat Summit and her diagnosis of early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s at age 59…it seemed like a moment I needed to write about, not only because it was an issue I had recently talked about…but also because it had that personal feel to it.
“Personal” is a lot of what writing a blog is about…writing about things that hit you personally in some form or fashion, and afterwards, hoping like crazy that your readers can relate to your thoughts on the matter.
My partner, Paula, and I did a presentation for a group of Northwestern students on the issue of dementia and LGBT – and while researching the topic, I realized just how affected I am by the topic. My Grandmother died of complications from Alzheimer’s, albeit at 94. And one of her sisters also died of the disease. The nagging feeling that I might be the next in line to get the disease is disconcerting to be sure. The thought of slowly losing the ability to write, then read, then even having any inkling of what the squiggles on the page meant (what’s a page?) – to me, that was worse than some of the other symptoms I had seen.
I was struck by Coach Summit’s candor and openness in her disclosure – the tenacity by which she was going to fight. I was also admittedly saddened by the fact that she is 59 years old, with what I am sure she had thought were going to be years, even decades, more in her life before she had to deal with something like this.
Then I noticed the wide circle of people that was surrounding this well known Tennessee women’s college basketball coach – doctors, family, friends, the school, her other coaches, players, fans – like the waves surrounding a pebble dropped in a lake.
I thought about the information we had gleaned for our talk at Northwestern, and I realized that now might be a good time, while the news swirls around this beloved coach, to at least send out the first of many links to information I found helpful in the work I do in LGBT aging.
Most of us will likely not have access to the same level of support this beloved sports figure has – and for many LBT women in our community, being candid and open about our relationships and who will be our primary caregivers is neither easy nor safe. You can’t get much more personal, both physically and mentally, than a diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Please check out this link for what I thought was a frank Q&A on LGBT caregiving and Alzheimer’s in particular, from the Family Caregiver Alliance, a national organization that supports our community. Also check out their home page and click on Groups – they have the LGBT Caring Community Online Support Group. In future blogs, I will be highlighting local resources as well…for now, check this out.
My heart goes out to all who have been affected by the life and contribution of this great coach – and I wish her all the best as she transitions to yet another facet of her life.
And while most of us don’t want to think about, let alone plan for something like this…like I said, the best laid plans…sometimes we can take the transitions of others and ask ourselves… what would I be doing if that were me…or my partner…or a friend or family member?
Send me your comments at Terri@thelstop.org – let me know what you are thinking.