LIFESTYLE - Kim Campbell, Lori LaBey address coping with Alzheimer’s, dementia
“Gentle on My Mind,” written by John Hartford, elevated Glen Campbell, a young Arkansas-born sessions musician, to stardom in 1967.
Fifty-one years later, his widow, Kimberly (Woolen) Campbell, described how Alzheimer’s disease ravaged the Grammy Hall of Fame singer’s mind.
The presentation, at the first annual Lehigh Valley Caregiver Retreat at DeSales University recently for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, featured Kim Campbell, co-founder of Careliving.org and Lori La Bey, founder of “Alzheimer’s Speaks.”
Campbell led the morning session with her inspiring story of her husband’s battle with the debilitating disease and the challenges she and their adult children faced caring for him.
“It was kind of love at first sight...” said the country girl from North Carolina of her blind date with the country music star who was 22 years her senior. She was a 21-year-old Radio City Music Hall dancer at the time. They were married in 1982 and the couple raised three children: Cal, Shannon and Ashley, in Phoenix, Ariz.
As Glen’s fourth wife, Kim proved steadfast, helping him recover from drug and alcohol addiction. She credited their Baptist faith for providing the support they needed. She quipped, “God led us to the Baptist church because the Baptists didn’t drink.
“He became the best father, the best husband I could ever have imagined,” Campbell said, adding, “We were so in love and had such a great life together.”
Campbell said after moving to the California coast to be near their college-bound daughter, “I started noticing that Glen was forgetting things. And he was asking the same questions over and over and over again, becoming very repetitive.” Kim became more concerned when, “He was becoming OCD about things, which were really weird.”
A visit to the doctor and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease left the Campbells facing their toughest journey.
Dealing with the disease head-on, the singer made his diagnosis public and hit the road for a “Goodbye Tour” with his wife to promote his recently released album “Ghost on the Canvas.”
Their three adult children played in his backup band. What originally began as a five-week tour was so successful, it ran for a year and a half with 151 shows.
At the family’s request, filmmaker James Keach chronicled the onstage performances, as well as offstage life to provide a look at how they all dealt with the disease’s progression.
The documentary, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” debuted in 2014. Captured on video is the joy the singer experienced playing to enthusiastic fans and a fascination with color as he watched a sunset or painted on a small canvas. Also recorded are the trials the family faced when the disease took him from a child-like spirit to extreme anxiety, then to a paranoid and combative state when family care was no longer safe.
Kim Campbell treated attendees with snippets from the film.
One of the most frustrating issues Campbell faced was a lack of health insurance coverage for Alzheimer’s disease.
“You pay all this money for health insurance and you get into the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and you need round-the-clock care, they don’t help you at all,” she said.
On Aug. 8, 2017, Glen Campbell died at age 81 after an extended stay in an Alzheimer’s long-term care and treatment facility.
Lori La Bey, founder of “Alzheimer’s Speaks” was the keynote speaker for the afternoon session. La Bey’s mother, Dorothy Moeschter, struggled with the disease for more than 30 years before she died in 2014.
Frustrated with the difficulty of locating resources to deal with her family’s situation, La Bey started “Alzheimer’s Speaks” to provide other caregivers with access to information and resources she had gathered. What started as a blog in 2009 expanded into the “Alzheimer’s Speaks YouTube Channel” in 2010, then “Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio” the following year. La Bey also created a free webinar series on dementia care.
“Dementia is an umbrella of different symptoms. I say dementia is like a cold. You might have a cough, somebody else might have a fever, somebody else might have a scratchy throat, somebody else might be exhausted. They’re different sets of symptoms but it’s that same cold umbrella,” La Bey said as she described how Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, frontal temporal lobe and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are different forms of dementia.
“People can have more than one type,” La Bey said, citing her mother’s autopsy report, which concluded she had symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Lewy bodies and some Parkinson’s disease.
La Bey said until recently, outcomes from research on dementia across the globe had not been shared. “The disease has been around for about 100 years, but it is really a baby disease in terms of what we know about it,” she added.
“We are into corrective care instead of compassionate care,” La Bey said of the tendency to try to get the patient to remember names and repeat sentences correctly.
“Be hopeful and be connected,” La Bey said to caregivers. She suggested caregivers take advantage of the resources now available to families of dementia patients and opportunities to reach out to other caregivers.
The program, sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Fleming Memory Center, Lehigh Valley Physician Group Geriatric Medicine and Abington Manor, also provided attendees with breakout sessions on how the arts can inspire self-expression in dementia patients, senior safety at home or behind the wheel, how to avoid senior scams and elder law.
For more information, visit lvhn.org, careliving.org, alzheimersspeaks.com, theabingtonmanor.com, lehighvalleyaginginplace.org and aging.pa.gov.