Was basketball coaching legend, Pat Summitt, forcibly driven from her job because of an early-onset Alzheimer's diagnosis?
Summitt originally announced her retirement in April 2012, saying that she felt it was an appropriate time for her to hand over the reins of the storied University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team to one of her assistants.
Now, a newly released affidavit, signed by Summitt, sheds some interesting light on the events that led to her stepping down. The document appears to imply that her abdication may not have been entirely voluntary.
In the sworn statement, Summitt describes a meeting she had with Tennessee athletic director, David Hart, shortly after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
"David Hart indicated to me that I would not be coaching the Lady Vol Basketball Team in the next school year (2012-2013)," Summitt's statement says. "This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my family, doctors, colleagues and friends and not be told this by Mr. Hart. I felt this was wrong."
She also describes a follow-up meeting in which Hart claimed that she "misinterpreted what he said."
Summitt herself isn't the one bringing suit, and has yet to comment publicly about the affidavit. The document was filed as part of a separate charge, made by Debby Jennings, former media director for the Volunteers and a friend of Summitt's.
In her complaint, Jennings accuses Hart of discriminating against her based on age and gender. Summitt's testimonial is meant to bolster the claim that Hart unjustly gave Jennings the boot back in May.
Bias Presents a Big Barrier
Seventy-five percent of dementia-stricken seniors and 64 percent of their caregivers feel that a dementia diagnosis carries a damaging bias, according to an international survey conducted by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI).
There is much unease in the eldercare community about the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer's and how it affects people with the disease and their caregivers. A huge concern is that shame and fear are preventing people from seeking treatment.
In another study, 48 percent of doctors from different countries said that existing Alzheimer's therapies are often rendered useless, due to a delayed diagnosis. They cited stigma and denial as significant obstacles to discussing the disease with their patients.
While it can be difficult for families to decide if an a dementia diagnosis is worth pursuing, there are many benefits to being proactive about the causes of and treatments for memory problems.