Alzheimer’s Should Scare Business Owners
We often joke that we initially noticed our memory going right after receiving our first membership solicitation for AARP in our late forties. All of our memory lapses today are attributed to AARP moments.
There was no joke, however, in the revelation from The Washington Post yesterday that Pat Summitt, head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Ms. Summitt, who has won more games than any coach of any sport in NCAA history, visited the Mayo Clinic three months ago after a series of troubling memory lapses.
According to the Post report, "A woman who was always highly organized had to ask repeatedly what time a team meeting was scheduled for. … She was late to practice. On occasion, she simply stayed in bed."
Ms. Summitt, contrary to what some may have expected, decided not to step down from her position. Instead, Ms. Summitt spoke with Jimmy Cheek, chancellor at the University of Tennessee, and athletic director Joan Cronan, to let them know of her diagnosis and her desire to continue coaching the Lady Vols.
The two administrators have thrown their support behind the coach.
"Life is an unknown and none of us has a crystal ball," Ms. Cronan said. "But I do have a record to go on. I know what Pat stands for: excellence, strength, honesty, and courage."
The situation faced by Ms. Summitt and her employer is being played out on an increasing basis across the U.S. as the population ages.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million Americans are currently living with the disease. Roughly 200,000 under the age of 65, like Ms. Summitt, suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s. The number of deaths from Alzheimer’s rose 66 percent between 2000 and 2008 while other diseases such as breast cancer, prostate, heart disease, stroke and HIV claimed fewer victims.
The cost of Alzheimer’s is a human and financial tragedy for America.
In terms of actual dollars, the cost of Alzheimer’s will reach $183 billion this year, based on Alzheimer’s Association estimates. But caring for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has other costs in terms of personal stress and lost work hours. The value of unpaid care provided to Alzheimer patients rose to $202.6 billion in 2010.
The Alzheimer’s Association has created a list of signs that a person may be suffering from the disease. These include:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality
- Pat Summitt, Tennessee women’s basketball coach, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – The Washington Post
- 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s – Alzheimer’s Association
Discussion Questions: What does (will) the growing incidence of Alzheimer’s mean for American businesses? How should businesses deal with diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s among their employees?