My husband, Glen Campbell, has stage 6 Alzheimer’s disease. Seven months ago, at the recommendation of his doctors, we placed him in a memory care facility close to our home in Nashville.
It’s a community that’s designed specifically for the needs of those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. They have all kinds of therapies and activities that stimulate parts of the brain affected by the illness. It’s a safe and secure environment where he receives around-the-clock care.
It’s been good for him. He just seems more at peace there than he was at home, where he became increasingly agitated and frantic.
He lives in a mental fog most of the time. He’s lost most of his language skills and has a hard time communicating. He still has moments of lucidity, though, and those moments let us know he’s still in there and that he’s the Glen we’ve always known. He can make short sentences and say things like “I love you” and “We are so blessed.”
The aides and nurses say he must have been a godly man because they always see him thanking the Lord. I’ve seen him walk over to the window and lift up his hands and say, “Thank you, heavenly Father.”
Those moments are so comforting because when you’re facing your mortality, that’s when you want to know God is there. That’s when you really want to draw close to Him.
When I see him do that, I know God is with him, and he’s aware of His presence. He’s relying on the Lord and gets his strength from Him.
People should not give up on others who have dementia. The essence of who they are is still alive and still in there.
He’s still the Glen Campbell he’s always been. He’s always especially loved children and old people. There’s this little lady in a wheelchair in the facility, and she can’t speak at all. He will walk over to her and take her little hand in his and say, “You are so precious.”
He’ll kiss her on the forehead, and she’ll just look up at him. She has no idea who he is, but you can tell it comforts her.
Even in his affliction, he’s ministering to people and trying to be a blessing.
In between those moments, he’s lost. He wanders. He can’t communicate. He doesn’t understand what others say to him. It’s very hard to direct him even to sit in a chair in the dining room.
When we did the film, “Glen Campbell... I’ll Be Me,” which documents his last farewell tour, Glen was in stages 2-4. He knew what was happening to him and he wanted to let people know what Alzheimer’s is really like.
He was passionate about making this film because he hoped it would be a catalyst for more funding for research to find a cure. He wanted to encourage other families who are dealing with this disease to keep living their lives, supporting each other and lifting each other up.
When Glen got the diagnosis and decided to go public, it was because he wanted fans to know what was going on in case he exhibited odd behavior on stage, like repeating a song or forgetting what key it was in.
He just wanted them to understand. But after he made the announcement, we all wondered if anyone would want to come see someone with Alzheimer’s perform.
We wondered if his fans would rather remember him the way he was. Maybe it would be depressing. Or maybe no one would be interested either way.
But what we found was the exact opposite. The first show he did after making the announcement sold out. From the time he walked on stage to the time he walked off, it was one standing ovation after another. It was clear fans were there to shower him with love and to root for, support and encourage him. It really blessed Glen and encouraged him to continue on.
Offers began to pour in from around the country for Glen to come to their cities to perform.
What began as a five-week farewell tour turned into 151 dates. His last show was at the Uptown Theater in Napa, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2012.
The first 15-20 minutes were a train wreck. He was having difficulties. His guitar wasn’t loud enough. It didn’t have the quality he wanted. He became very agitated on stage. He kept turning his back to the audience. His band was very uncomfortable. It was a tough show.
But the audience, again, was so supportive. They cheered for him without fail and without question. They loved him unconditionally.
He snapped back and finished the show strong. It was good, but it was clear it was time for us to end the tour and say farewell.
He closed the show with “A Better Place.”
Daily we pray for grace and mercy as he approaches the final stages of this illness and are so thankful for the moments we see Glen being Glen.