By Diane Weinberg
Growing up just south of Nashville, Tennessee, country music singers were a part of my life. We drove past Waylon Jennings’ house virtually every day of my childhood. We would see Kenny Rogers having a soda at the local tennis club. I went Trick-or-Treating at Steve Gatlin’s house. (Bonus points for those who can name all three Gatlin brothers.) We lived near music studio executives and went to school with the children of songwriters.
I guess I’ve gotten older (at least chronologically), and so have the singers who dominated my childhood. The Rhinestone Cowboy himself, Glen Campbell, was diagnosed three years ago with Alzheimer’s disease. He has recorded his battle with Alzheimer’s disease over the past several years in a documentary entitled “Glenn Campbell . . . I’ll Be Me,” which is to debut April 18, 2014 (Good Friday) at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival. This week, a friend of the Campbell family confirmed that Mr. Campbell moved to a care facility with a memory care unit. (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20807647,00.html)
In reading the People.com article about his illness (don’t judge me), I couldn’t help notice the reactions by the readers. Many of the writers had family members suffering from or who had passed from Alzheimer’s disease. Some supported the decision to place Mr. Campbell in a facility. Others clearly felt that the placement was too soon or completely inappropriate. What the article did not detail is whether Mr. Campbell had already instructed his family as to his wishes.
Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases with cognitive impairment are by far some of the most difficult medical conditions my clients encounter, and I do think the caregivers suffer more from these illnesses than do the patients. Not only do the caregivers struggle with providing the family member with appropriate care, but they also spend time wondering whether they are genuinely carrying out that relative’s wishes.
When a family first believes a parent (or other relative) has a cognitive impairment, I cannot stress the importance of sitting down with the parent to decide what she wants to do when she can no longer care for herself. I have had parents tell me that they want to live in a memory care unit, especially if that parent has cared for a family member with dementia. The parent does not want to burden her children with the disease. Sometimes, there is no option but to place the parent into a facility – the parent simply requires more care than the family can provide.
I admire the Campbell family for allowing the public to view their ordeal with Alzheimer’s disease, and I look forward to watching the documentary. And I hope the Rhinestone Cowboy and his family are able to enjoy and appreciate each other during his final journey.