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.