Thursday, April 23, 2015

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

I was privileged to view a documentary film about Glen Campbell, "I'll Be Me", and about his life since receiving the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s which he and his family announced in June 2011.

Before the viewing, James Keach described how his son persuaded him to film a documentary similar to the film on Aids.  “What Magic Johnson has done for AIDS, Glen Campbell will do for Alzheimer’s Disease,” he stated to an audience predominantly comprised of caregivers. He praised the Campbell family who were willing to openly discuss the progression of Glen’s disease and the impact on their family.

The film was followed by an intermission which I needed to recover from what I had heard and seen. The filming showed a family standing by their man and allowing him to act out what he was experiencing: a continuous stream of good humor, frustration at being unable to identify what he wanted, repeating a song during the show when he had just sung it. His wife, Kim, was not passive but good naturedly waited and patiently responded to him. Even in frustration, they found ways to celebrate their life.

I recognized many of the common behaviors of Alzheimer’s but also that Mr. Campbell acted as a unique person. The camera faced him squarely as he watched home movies of his previous wives and children. His face registered wonder that the children playing with a woman were his and a previous wife.

After the intermission, James Keach, Glen’s 4th wife Kim, and their musician son and daughter, Shannon and Ashley, responded to audience questions. They reflected so much joy in memories of the fully-present Glen and the fading man. They graciously shared their best memory in the film which showed both the artistic skills of their Dad the musician, and their interaction with him off stage. The film shows Glen poking in his mouth with a pen knife because he perceives something wrong but can’t identify it. Ashley remembers him walking out of the hotel room and forgetting his frustration, giving her a hug and telling her he loves her.

Glen and his family were willing to stare down stigma so we can focus on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Glen was 79 today. Kim, Shannon and Ashley kept him at home near Nashville as long as possible. When he became difficult to handle and demonstrated a need for medical care 24-7, they moved him to a small memory care home. They visit daily. Glen has lost his ability to sing the lyrics but not his pleasure in singing out.

Please watch this documentary film and pass it on to everyone you know.

The official website for the Glen Campbell movie, I'll Be Me. This film follows Glen and the Campbell Family Band on their “Goodbye Tour” across America.

Thursday, February 19, 2015




Mount Washington at 6,260 feet is part of the Olympic Mountains formed millions of years ago by moving underwater plates. Unlike the Cascade Mountain Range dividing our state east from west, there was no volcanic action involved in forming the Olympics. Under the Pacific Ocean slabs of rock were pushed and tumbled forming gigantic masses pushing their way up from the ocean floor. A couple million years ago they were compiled and shaped by glaciers advancing and retreating many times.

Driving west we view the mountain range with fresh snow delineating peaks and valleys and I mull over age. Driving east we view the Cascades and I wonder again about their origin and age. In the summer they are covered in blue haze and can only be viewed in full definition when first snow delineates the dimensions.

Our Adagio seniors with their hoary heads of thinning hair vary from their 80s to 90s and age becomes relative as we assess their condition with visiting nurses. At some point age doesn’t matter; health does. If they are able, we review the experiences that formed their systems, now aging into meditation and naps.

Each of us will become these seniors unless illness or accident removes us first. Aging in place produces frailty and in 80%, dementia. Such is the human system – without exception, as surely as seasonal rains and ice wear down Mt. Washington.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Aging Systems Goal

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Introvert’s Resolution

After a lifetime of scoring five points either side of 50 percent on introvert/extrovert scales, I connected with Tania Runyan‘s blog in Good Letters/Image   I loathe general social chit chat and have learned how to say a lot about nothing while I ask after their welfare.
Years ago an outreach program at church asked me this question? Why do you go to the grocery store?  The answer, in addition to milk, eggs, bacon, etc. is: to meet God in other people and illustrate His love.
A single woman wearing a brightly colored scarf may illicit my comment: thank you for brightening my day with your scarf.  Or, you have such beautiful hair.
To a woman ignoring her cantankerous child while dumping products into her grocery cart at lightning speed: You are a good mom. Someday he’ll appreciate you.
To the checkout clerk: Thanks for your help. Did you survive the holidays?
That much I can handle and I have become comfortable looking for people with whom I can briefly connect and encourage. Ms. Runyan’s perspective lets me know I’m not alone.
Where do you find yourself?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Our corner bedroom is quiet, empty except for the furniture staging. I sit in a wheel chair and roll back and forth enjoying the peace. I remember the many families we have entertained in this room as they visited their parent(s) with gifts of candy and favorite food, and finally sat quietly in death vigil. Some of these residents I mourn and pray for happy memories for their families in this season of remembering.

Others were difficult people, unhappy no matter what we did for them or their families. Denial occupied so much space in their relationships, there was not room for words of appreciation. One resident demanded to be brought to the hospital because as long as he stayed with us, his son would bustle in at all hours, cheer and insist he gather up their ties and grip the living he longed to release. He died peacefully surrounded by caring nurses.

The family of one resident fought a need for Hospice until I had to call and insist that I get help caring for their father. Their response to my urgent demand for pain meds was to ask, “this won’t stop him from getting better will it?” The man died three days later.

Family Systems--the way a family functions--don’t change just because the calendar reports advanced years. A friend tells the story of her two week respite stay with her 80+ mother so her father could attend an out-of-state family reunion. “I was eager to help out but also terrified. My Mom can be so critical I turn to instant jelly.”

Another woman was difficult but manageable until her daughter visited. Within 30 minutes they would be verbally clawing at each other. Other family members understood that this was the relationship mother and daughter had always had.  In the last few days the daughter continued to bring in trinkets and goodies that would perk up her nearly comatose mom. As miserable as she made our lives, I pray for the daughter because in this month of family get-togethers, she is still grieving for her mom.

December is the time of year to forgive, to recognize the way it was supposed to be in our homes and accept the reality of what was. The lights and color of Christmas decorations can encourage us to release guilt, the gift that keeps on giving. Parents were people’s children too.

Within a week this room will be filled with the stuff of another family and we will be honored to learn the way they do things.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Parkinson’s National Family Caregivers Month

Do you know a family living with Parkinson's Disease?
November is highlighted to build awareness of people with Parkinson’s, both those who endure the disease and those who care for them. This is the month to visibly support family and friends who rally around a loved one with PD. This group includes partners who help with medical appointments or personal care such as dressing or bathing. It also includes those in our extended networks — family, neighbors, co-workers, health professionals — who provide support, making them part of the caregiving network.

It’s important to take time out to talk about their contributions and give them your support.

Parkinson's Disease Foundation in their latest newsletter tells the story of Dr. Maria De Leon who has a unique perspective on caring in Parkinson's disease. In fact, she first cared for her grandmother with Parkinson's disease, then for her patients as a movement disorders neurologist, and now lives with Parkinson's disease herself.
The family of Greg Hardoby from Rahway, NJ, have all pitched in since his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease. Mr. Hardoby is himself no stranger to supporting a loved one with PD -- his late grandmother lived with Parkinson's disease. Recently, when he wanted to make a difference by fundraising for PDF, his wife Maria, and their children all helped to put together a golf outing they called Putt Fore Parkinson's and raised more than $5,000. 
The family was featured in the NJ Suburban News on September 18, 2014.
"Hardoby, who lives with Parkinson's, his wife Maria and their children Ann Marie and Alex, organized the event as part of the PDF Champions program, the grassroots fundraising arm of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The golf outing featured several contests such as longest drive and closest to the pin, as well as a pig roast and awards banquet in the evening. The family hopes to make the golf outing an annual event."

Few of us have the time or energy to organize such an event, but this month simply make a phone call to your PD friends, take a caregiver out for a latte, send an email, add this link to your Facebook page as tribute to your friends, smile encouragement in the grocery store to a stranger walking with a cane and a caregiver. So simple. So appreciated.