Glen Campbell is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, but friends and family say he still has that familiar spark in his eye, and still loves to tell jokes.
On Sunday night, CNN aired documentary I’ll Be Me, which revealed the country legend’s heartbreaking struggle with Alzheimer’s — a struggle many families have to endure. These days, Campbell is in a memory-care facility in Nashville full-time, where daughter Ashley Campbell said family “just loves hanging out with him,” she told Rolling Stone.
Sadly, the Alzheimer’s has progressed far enough that Glen can’t really communicate, and doesn’t understand much when people talk to him. Thankfully, Campbell is “calm, content and happy, and feels a lot of love in his life,” and responds to hugs, tastes, and music.
Glen’s sense of humor doesn’t seem to have faded, either, his daughter said.
“He still makes jokes and likes to play around, even though the jokes don’t make any sense and it’s gibberish; he still goes through the motions and it’s still him. Like, he’ll take a French fry and start smoking it like a cigar and give us all that ‘joke’ face … He still likes to make people laugh.”
Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. His last song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” won a Grammy this year, and his Goodbye Tour covered 18 months and 151 sold-out shows. Campbell said the documentary that has encapsulated her father’s last bittersweet moments in the public eye — and revealed Glen and his family’s struggle — is important for the public to see.
“It’s a great way to get the message out there. I think the beauty of it is that my dad is such a personable person. He’s so charismatic and funny and just real, and it really shines through in this film. He puts a real human face on this disease that a lot of people are dealing with that we don’t really hear about it a lot in the media. That’s the conversation we’re hoping to start, that it’s real and it happens to people we love and that we need to personalize it.”
Research into Alzheimer’s is ongoing as scientists unravel what causes the debilitating disease and how it can be prevented or treated. Following Glen Campbell’s poignant documentary — supplemented by CNN with spots on other sufferers and information about the disease — researchers have come forward with two small pieces of the puzzle.
In an attempt to get ahead of the disease, scientists are trying to figure out why two-thirds of sufferers are women, CBS News reported. And it’s possible they may have found a clue.
By age 65, women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing the illness, while men have a 1 in 11 chance. That increased risk may be caused by a related gene that affects women more than it does men. Researchers don’t know why, but do know that women who carry a copy of the gene are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s as women without it, and men’s risk only increases a little. Menopause and its effect on estrogen may be a factor.
Meanwhile, scientists looking into early detection have used a memory and thinking test to predict Alzhemier’s disease 18 years before symptoms appear, United Press International reported.
For 18 years, 2,000 Chicagoans with an average age of 73 were given the test; none of them had Alzheimer’s at the time. During the study, 23 percent of African Americans and 17 percent of European-Americans developed it; those with lower test scores were 10 times more likely to be diagnosed.
Meanwhile, one of those Alzheimer’s sufferers, Glen Campbell, gets regular visits from family and is cared for every day by a personal sitter named Brody. His wife, Kim, 57, admits to depression but hangs in there, staying with Glen all afternoon until he goes to bed, People added. The family continues to campaign for awareness and research, but mostly, their days are about spending time with Campbell and making him comfortable.
And that includes keeping the past alive.
“I like to play him his old songs,” said another of Glen’s daughters, Shannon. “It seems like he likes to fall asleep to that.”
[Photo Courtesy Rick Diamond / Getty Images]