Monday, June 18, 2018
Features and More

Glen Campbell's wife Kim talks Alzheimer's on a visit to Largo

Anyone who attended a Glen Campbell concert during his 2012 farewell tour won't forget the emotional power of watching a legend wrestling with Alzheimer's disease, missing cues and lyrics yet playing guitar as well as ever.

These days, even Campbell's muscle memory has failed him.

"Sadly, if you live long enough into this disease you even lose that," Kim Campbell said Monday while visiting the Palms of Largo, a senior living and memory care community. "He cannot play guitar anymore. I don't even know if he knows what it's for.

"But our children come and play for him. It's hard to tell if he's responding to it much. Sometimes he'll listen and sometimes he's distracted. He's in his own world right now."

Campbell's visit was part of her collaboration with The Goodman Group, touring several of the health care company's 33 locations nationwide with the Oscar nominated documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, chronicling his Alzheimer's decline.

One of the most popular recording stars ever, Glen Campbell is presently living in a memory care community in Nashville. The Grammy winning performer of such classics as Rhinestone Cowboy, By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Gentle on My Mind moved back there last November, after a short-lived attempt at homebound care.

"We've entered the later stages of the illness," Kim Campbell said. "Some people can remain at home but everybody eventually needs 24/7 care.

"Glen's getting great care, he's happy, he's cheerful. He's healthy but he has lost most of his language skills. He doesn't understand anything anyone is saying to him.

"But there's life and energy and community. He's there with other people — doctors, lawyers — who are all facing the same thing. I'm in a community with other family members who are going through the same thing."

Coincidentally, Campbell visited Largo a day after former First Lady Nancy Reagan died at age 94. Tributes to Mrs. Reagan invariably noted her unwavering concern for former President Ronald Reagan after his Alzheimer's diagnosis.

"She did a lot to protect her husband's legacy and his dignity," Kim Campbell said. "For a lot of people in the past, going into seclusion was what they did. I totally respect that. In their situation that was the right thing to do.

"Glen is one of the first people who came out and lived with dementia before the public. It was his choice to do it. He was, I think, really brave. Now we've reached that stage where I am trying to protect his dignity."

Part of that process is not revealing the name of her husband's memory care community.

"It's hard sometimes for fans to understand," she said. "They still want access to him. We allowed that access for so long but now it's time for him to have privacy and dignity."

Campbell said living with an Alzheimer's patient isn't always dignified. She admits that "depression, the lack of sleep, the burnout" wears on her and family members.

"A lot of people with dementia become combative, like when I bathe him or change his clothes," Campbell said. "Otherwise he's as sweet as can be."

Once when Campbell was dressing her husband, "he gave me a black eye, just punched me right in the eye," she said. "I know he loves me and it's not anything to do with (abuse). It's just that he can't communicate and that's his reflex.

"There are also dangerous things they do, like pick up a knife and not know what it's for. Glen would put a straw hat on top of a lamp and I'd find it just as hot as it could be, ready to start a fire.

"Another time Glen stood on top of a glass tea cart, trying to climb through a kitchen window. He could've gone right through that (glass top) and cut his legs to pieces. And it was on wheels."

After 34 years of marriage, the Campbells are separated by cruel fate yet bonded spiritually.

"Faith has always been the central part of our relationship," she said. "I'm so pleased that as Glen has entered the later stages of this illness, it's evident that he has retained his awareness of God.

"There have been times when he'd walk over to a window and look at the beautiful trees outside, and he'd just raise his hands and say, 'Thank you, heavenly father.' He could barely speak at all but he could come up with, 'We're so blessed,' or 'Thank you, heavenly father.' That really comforts me to know that he has that sense of God's presence in his life, that he's not alone, even if I'm not right next to him."

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 89308365. Follow @StevePersall.

 
Comments
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

When we started seeing ads for Nestle Toll House cookies already baked and prepackaged, I knew it was time for our tasters to get involved. They are cookie lovers, and one even has his own cookiemaking business. We found the Nestle brand and had hope...
Published: 06/18/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

Still shaken by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination six days earlier, I sat in the hospital waiting room mindlessly thumbing through a May 1968 Rolling Stone while my wife, Fran, gave birth to our daughter Elle. As was customary, when everyone had been fre...
Published: 06/15/18
Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

LOREN ELLIOTT • Times CorrespondentPUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICOThe third-floor balcony attached to our rented apartment served as a peaceful refuge above Puerto Vallarta’s bustling central district streets. Below us, taxis honked, people crowded bus ...
Published: 06/15/18
How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

Here's how to make your cat famous on the internet, according to the owners of some famous felines.
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

A gliding, wraith-like figure of a Dementor from the Harry Potter films enters Central Park, and the exteriors of the surrounding buildings immediately are covered in a layer of ice, a sign of their power to drain happiness out of the air around them...
Published: 06/14/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Smile for the camera, Frito. The world is watching, and you have a story to tell. The tiny seahorse came to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Sunday with fishing line wrapped around her neck. By Wednesday, she became the CMA’s newest internet ...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18