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Remembering Glen Campbell: An Interview with his Widow, Kim and Daughter, Ashley

09 Nov 2020

Remembering Glen Campbell: An Interview with his Widow, Kim and Daughter, Ashley

Remembering Glen Campbell: An Interview with Kim Campbell, Author of Best-Selling Book, GENTLE ON MY MIND, and Recording Artist, Ashley Campbell | It has been over three years since country legend Glen Campbell passed away from Alzheimer's disease. Held every November, National Family Caregivers Month was created to share appreciation for family caregivers around the country. Caregivers are superstars and it’s important for caregivers to take care of their own well-being and to understand that their health matters just as much as those for whom they care. We want to share an interview we did with Glen’s widow, Kim Campbell, and their youngest child, Ashley Campbell, to get some insight as to what they’ve learned and reflect over their caregivinexperiences. Kim and Ashley open up about their journey, memory care communities, caregiving and the healing power of music to help raise awareness and educate others about this disease.

Interview by APB’s Healthcare Agents: Brenda Kane and Jennifer Luukkonen

Kim, how was writing your new memoir “Gentle On My Mind,” and was it a healing process for you?

Kim: Alzheimer’s took Glen’s memories from him and left me to remember our life together alone.  But looking back through family photos, listening to Glen's music, and watching videos of him/us was painful for me because I missed him so much. I found it ironic that one of Glen’s most famous songs was all about how old memories can be a source of comfort, gentle on the mind. After almost a decade of grieving, I decided it was finally time to find the joy that comes with remembering. Writing my memoir helped me overcome the pain and begin to celebrate the life we had together once again.

Ashley, you know firsthand how draining and overwhelming the life of a caregiver can be. What is your advice for those who caring for the caregiver? How do we not neglect the caregiver?

Ashley: With my mom, who bore the brunt of the caregiving responsibilities, I tried to be a source of relief to her. Whether it was running an errand for her, making her laugh, making her dinner, or volunteering to keep an eye on dad so she could go out and meet a girlfriend for dinner. I was constantly encouraging her to care for herself and not lose herself while giving care to others. It is like in the airplane safety booklets; you have to secure your own oxygen mask before you can help someone else with theirs. 

Kim, what is your advice for family members who have preconceived notions or misconceptions about long-term care?

Kim: A quality memory community can provide a safe environment and a better quality of life for your loved and for you. Use proper terminology to help yourself as well as your family and friends overcome the negative stigma surrounding long term care. A memory community is NOT a nursing home. Don’t use clinical terms and never say I “put” or “placed” my husband in a “home” or “facility.” I like to say “Our family joined a Memory Care community." Every community is different, so you must educate yourself about what to look for. Do your own research. It is good to understand that referral services only refer you to communities that give them a referral fee so they may not tell you about all the options in your area. You should not feel guilty about doing what is best for your loved one, your children, and last but not least, yourself. 

Ashley, you saw the healing power of music first-hand when you toured with your Dad. Can you tell us more about that?

Ashley: Throughout all of this, I have learned that music plays a huge part in the brain's ability to make connections between memories. I found this to be especially true with my dad. Playing music while fighting against the progression of Alzheimer's was like constantly adding grease to the wheels. I believe it kept him with us longer and also sparked great joy in his mind. Joy is a great healer. 

Ashley, as you follow in the footsteps of your Dad, what was it like recording the song "If I Wasn’t” for your new album “Something Lovely,” recorded entirely in your friend’s basement studio we might add, featuring the one and only Vince Gill? 

Ashley: Recording this album felt like I saying to the world, "this is who I am." It’s a classic, dreamy, nostalgic sound with a modern take. And of course, nothing could be more classic than Vince Gill!

Kim, how can caregivers implement music therapy into their care plan?

Kim: Glen’s doctors all agreed that continuing to play and listen to music helped Glen maintain his intellectual function far longer than he otherwise would have.  That inspired me to create the Kim and Glen Campbell Foundation to advance the use of music as medicine to restore and rebuild neural pathways, alleviate depression, manage behaviors and boost cognition. Make your loved one several playlists of their favorite songs, a morning play list that consists of upbeat, happy tunes to start their day and another playlist to help them wind down and relax at night. Physical touch and exercise are also very important so try dancing together. 

Kim and Ashley, when you are both sharing your stories with others and giving keynotes for organizations, what is the biggest piece of advice or words of wisdom you give families and healthcare care providers about caregiving? 

Kim:  Don’t become the second victim. The physical, mental, and emotional strain of caring for a loved one with dementia can impact you by causing depression, fatigue, stress and illness. These factors can increase your risk for dementia, and over time can take as much as ten years off your life. You can’t do it alone without sacrificing your own health so don’t feel guilty about asking for help. Recruit family and friends, hire in home care, or join a memory care community. Get the support you need to continue being you.

Ashley: Don't get lost in the despair of losing your loved one you are caring for. Yes, you are losing them and you WILL lose them, but they are still here right now, in whatever capacity they can be. Cherish every moment you have with them and love them for who they are in the present instead of being sad or angry they are not who they were before they fell ill. It's a bittersweet journey so try not to focus too much on the bitter. Enjoy the sweet while it's right in front of you. What I wouldn't give to hug my dad just one more time. 

Kim, is there is one thing you can share that stands out as important information you learned through this journey, that you wished you knew early on? 

Kim: When your loved one enters the late stages of the disease, joining a quality memory care community should be your first choice not your last resort.