FERRIER FILES: Glen Campbell's wife describes his final days, life with Alzheimer's
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
Glen Campbell's life meant so much to his thousands of music fans, but it now has new weight for what it reveals about living with Alzheimer's disease.
Campbell spent the last stage of his life at Abe’s Garden in Nashville., a memory care center considered on the cutting edge by many including Vanderbilt University.
This not a place to just slip into death. It is a place to still experience joy, and a place to ask you to change the way you think.
“The biggest misconception is that it is a steady decline once you move into assisted living," Glen's wife Kim Campbell said. "Abe’s Garden seeks to turn that myth on its head and show that people can be more engaged more physically fit and have some meaningful years before the inevitable decline of dementia."
Residents like Sam the lawyer liked mail and so he gets a mailbox and plenty of mail. There is a house dog and lots of classes including music and light and yoga.
The residents are safe and secure. They may be sometimes be imprisoned by their minds, but they are not prisoners here. They are guests.
This is the place where Kim Campbell brought her husband Glen for the final stage of his life with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I always say I didn't place my husband or put him in a home," Kim Campbell said. "Our family joined a memory care community."
Since the day the Campbells got the diagnosis, Kim Campbell went into action. She started a website called careliving.org and began writing very publicly about every stage of Glen's dementia, including her decision to move him there.
“I think the guilt keeps people from doing the research," Kim Campbell said. "You know 'I can never ever have anyone take care of my loved ones but me' so caregivers get isolated in their own homes, and people with dementia are relegated to back bedrooms and never go outside."
Glen Campbell continued his recording career through the early stages of Alzheimers. He even cut a final album of favorites during the middle stages of the disease. Kim was there at his side through it all.
“I have been saying goodbye to him many days for years," Kim Campbell said. "And now that he is physically gone, I miss his hugs. Even with Alzheimer’s, I felt so secure in Glen’s arms."
At the end, Kim Campbell said it was hard, but they were eased by one final amazing moment. On the day before Glen Campbell died, there was unexpected music.
“The day before he passed, two people from the Nashville symphony came in," Kim Campbell said. "We heard this gorgeous music and opened up his door. Pouring through the door, it was such a peaceful, peaceful transition. It was a beautiful way to say goodbye."
If you are struggling with a love one with Alzheimer's, you can contact Abe’s garden through their website. They also have daycare programs and offer free assistance and advice.