Alzheimer's TN: Dementia-affected families support Pat Summitt

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Support for Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt keeps pouring in from you and around the nation.

East Tennessee families already affected by dementia know just what she's up against.

Melinda Harwood heard the news like the rest of us, but perhaps understood better. Pat Summitt faces dementia, a devastating diagnosis, Harwood knows all too well.

"It was like a rush of my mother all over again. I cried," said Harwood. "I have the utmost respect for Pat. She's all I know. And to think what's down the road for her."

Doris Ann Eble was diagnosed with dementia in around 2005, about two years after Harwood started to see the signs.

"Things just weren't right," said Harwood.

Eble's disease progressed from the care of a home sitter, to a nursing facility. She died in March at 81.

Her daughter now works to help others by volunteering with Alzheimer's Tennessee, Inc. Tuesday the phone calls and emails didn't stop.

"A lot of people started having a lot of questions about Alzheimer's and about dementia and what is this mean?" said Kay Watson, director of communications for Alzheimer's Tennessee.

A disease without discrimination for its victims. And this time, it chose Summitt.

"For anyone to understand what Alzheimer's and dementia is about, it oftentimes takes someone you know getting diagnosed or going through that disease. I think Pat Summitt is someone a lot of people feel like they know," said Watson.

Alzheimer's Tennessee says they'll respect Summitt's privacy, but they're glad she shared her struggle.

"Just being who she is, we think that she would be a powerful advocate," said Watson.

"It's just in her style. I would expect no less," said Harwood.

There are dozens of resources for families looking for information. Click on the link above for more information on Alzheimer's Tennessee. You can also call its helpline at (865) 544-6288.

Facebook is also exploding with support on pages like 'We've got your back Pat' and a page dedicated to wearing orange Friday in Pat's honor. You can learn about those by clicking the links above.

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