Glen Campbell's Very Public Battle with Alzheimer's Disease
Performing on Stage
NOTE: Today, August 8, 2017, Glen Campbell died at the age of 81. The light of his talent was bright for so long, and even when it grew dim, he was courageous enough to share its last flickers with his fans. Rest in peace, Rhinestone Cowboy, and condolences to his loving family.
I wrote the following article when Campbell recorded his final album and went on tour after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
The final video of award-winning American singer Glen Campbell, who has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, was released featuring the song, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You.’ I challenge everyone to watch this video on YouTube (URL below) and listen to Campbell singing this incredibly moving song, knowing from the first line you’re going to weep, probably bawl like a baby before it ends, especially if you’ve faced the devastation of AD in a loved one.
The video is a collage of Campbell’s life--footage that includes both professional and very personal family scenes, interwoven with shots of him being placed into an MRI chamber and later sitting with his wife and the doctor who points at images of a damaged brain.
The song lyrics are heartbreaking, referring to many things Campbell used to do that his loved ones will miss about him, the tears they will cry, etc., but he describes his own demeanor by that time as the final selfish act of AD:
“I’ll be gone. I’m not gonna miss you.”
It will tear your heart out to watch the video and listen to this moving song, but it tells such a profound truth about Alzheimer's disease that it's well worth the tears. It's available on YouTube:
Alzheimer’s – the Disease that Steals Memory
I was with my mother when the neurologist diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to vascular dementia caused by multiple ‘mini-strokes.’ I will never forget what she said to me after we left the doctor’s office.
“Honey, by the time it’s gotten really bad, it will hurt you a lot more than it will hurt me. I won’t realize what is happening, but I’m sorry for what you’ll go through.”
A blessing for me and other family, though not perhaps for her, was that although she forgot much and lost the ability to care for herself, the day before she left this world she still recognized me and other loved ones she saw frequently. That isn’t true for many AD patients, who are lost to their families even while they are still alive. My heart aches for the victims and their loved ones.
Remembering the Young Glen Campbell
It makes me sad to think of Glen Campbell being attacked by Alzheimer’s. In the late sixties and early seventies, I was a faithful fan of his music and comedy TV variety show, ‘The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.’ Recalling how much I enjoyed his pop hits of that time launches the strains of ‘Gentle on my Mind’ playing inside my head, his clear voice singing the lyrics. Another favorite was ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix.’ I bought his albums and played them frequently, singing along with enthusiasm.
By the late ‘70s, Campbell’s star waned as pop music evolved. He started drinking heavily, using drugs and was embroiled in a stormy relationship with country music singer Tanya Tucker, who had her own addictions. After they broke up in a booze-fueled fight that brought forth both the police and lots of tabloid coverage, he slowly pulled his life back together and rejuvenated his career with country and gospel music.
In 1981, he married his present wife, Kim, with whom he had three children who played onstage with their dad during his last few years of touring. (His three previous marriages produced five other children.) Campbell credited his family and renewed faith with banishing his demons. Life was good for more than a quarter of a century.
And then the short-term memory loss began. And worsened. Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2011 and went public with the news before beginning a global farewell tour with his wife by his side to cue him with forgotten lyrics. All along the way, he and Kim promoted awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease while their very personal struggle with the disease was on constant display.
He even made two more albums, including ‘I’ll be Me.’ He and Julian Raymond co-wrote the song, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’ for that album, a very special song about his struggles with AD. It was the last one he recorded and was written for the planned documentary ‘Glen Campbell: I'll be Me.’ It premieres in New York on October 24, 2014, and a wide release will follow.
In April, 2014, Glen Campbell’s family announced that his disease was so advanced they could no longer care for him properly at home, and he was moved into a memory care/assisted living facility where they visit him every day. More than likely, the Glen his family knew for so long and still loves is ‘already gone’, much or perhaps all of the time. His song was prophetic, as he knew it would be.
Watch the video and listen to the words. Have tissues ready at hand because I promise…the tears will fall. Look at the pictures flickering by of the young, happy Glen Campbell and his family, and then see the older man. Realize how joyfully his fans enjoyed his music for decades. His life was pretty great. Sadly, the final chapter’s been stolen by AD.
The Glenn Campbell Documentary
You can watch the documentary made of Glenn Campbell's last tour with his family after his Alzheimer's diagnosis. It's available on Netflix and is a portrait of courage--not only by Glenn Campbell, but by his entire family and stage crew. No attempt is made to hide the signs of incipient AD. It was obviously a combination of happy times and sad moments, but all-in-all, a celebration of Glenn's life and talent. I hope you will watch it.
The Dreadful Alzheimer Statistics
Though his battle was made public in a bid to help remove the disease’s stigma, Glen Campbell is only one of many victims devastated by this grim malady. A recent report on NBC noted that, in the U.S. alone, someone develops AD every seventy seconds. Even more horrifying, those statistics are expected to accelerate as the population ages. And these are the numbers for only one country. Think of all the lives AD lays waste to worldwide.
Although no cure or even a long-term treatment is yet in sight from research within the traditional medical community, ramped-up AD research produced new markers that may predict who will get the disease. Scientists are focusing on numerous avenues of research in a race to find the key that will halt this monstrous disease in its tracks. May that race end successfully soon.
UPDATE, September, 2016: This week I'm watching the wonderful online video series, "Awakening from Alzheimer's." There are twelve interviews with renowned doctors who are getting great results preventing and even REVERSING the cognitive damage of Alzheimer's and other dementias by protecting and stimulating renewal of the brain with natural methods.
You won't learn about these natural methods from the traditional medical establishment or the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the former (doctors) don't know, and the latter will protect huge profits from drugs that don't work and have side effects, regardless of the impact this has on people.
I wish this information had been available to me when Alzheimer's disease (AD) ravaged my mother's brain and stole her life. That's why I want to share it with everyone to prevent the toll cognitive impairment can take, either with AD, other dementias, or age-related cognitive decline.
Don't wait! Check out this Facebook site to learn how you can get the digital and/or printed material from the series that contains life-changing information. Copy and paste this URL into your browser if it doesn't function as a link. You will have to be logged into your Facebook account to access it. (If you are one of the very few people on the planet who doesn't yet have a Facebook account, it's worth joining just for access to this valuable information.)
A book by the series' producer and interviewer, Peggy Sarlin, is available on Amazon. It's about some "maverick" doctors who went against the traditional tide of opinion regarding the treatment of Alzheimer's and other dementias. This is a terrific book, chockful of life-changing information about the new and proven natural methods to treat this horrendous disease of the brain. What Sarlin learned prompted her to create the video series. See the Amazon link below for this wonderful book. I've already put into use some things I learned from the videos and book.
Another update, March, 2017: In an advanced state of Alzheimer's, the 80-year-old Glen Campbell lives in a memory care/assisted living facility where he gets the specialized care he needs and where his wife visits him almost daily. She recently spoke out about his current condition. While the "Rhinestone Cowboy" is no longer able to actually play the guitar at this stage of AD, she says he plays "air guitar," tries to sing sometimes, and "his essence is still there."
This reminded me of the day my mother sat down to play the piano in my living room, placed her hands on the keys, sat perfectly still for a few moments and then said, "I can't." She'd been playing piano by ear since she was a teenager and continued during the early stages of dementia, but the dreadful scourge finally wiped out the part of her memory that once made beautiful music. Oddly, the loss didn't seem to upset her, but I had to leave the room to hide my tears.
Alzheimer's disease steals those skills, talents, and personality traits that made its victims who they were through all or much of their previous lives. Research continues to work toward a cure, but, in the interim, there are some natural treatments that may prevent or even reverse cognitive problems.
If you haven't read Peggy Sarlin's wonderful book, "Awakening from Alzheimer's," please do so. (Amazon link below.) I'm at increased risk for AD because my mother had it, so I am taking some of the supplements discussed. The best thing about natural treatments are the lack of side effects that often occur with pharmaceuticals.
Another book I've found very useful is "The Rhodiola Revolution," by Richard P. Brown, M.D., and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D., also available on Amazon. I take Rhodiola every day, and can tell the difference in my ability to focus. When you discover all the great things this amazing herb can do to protect your brain, improve concentration, and enhance cognitive performance, you may want to give it a try as well. It can even help AD patients with mild to moderate cognitive dysfunction, so please pass this information along to anyone you know whose family is coping with the memory thief.
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"The Rhodiola Revolution"
© 2014 Jaye Denman