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Glen Campbell's widow, daughter help families separated from loved ones in long-term care

They offered comfort and guidance for other families who can't visit loved ones in long-term care because of the coronavirus.

DALLAS — The participants on the Zoom call dialed in from across the country and shared the same common concern of no longer able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes.

“I’m just learning to use Zoom. It’s great to be with you all today,” said Kim Campbell. “My husband is Glen Campbell. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011.”

Separation anxiety has set in for many families with a mother or father living at Presbyterian Village North.

Like every senior facility, visits from loved ones and treks out into the community have been canceled here during the pandemic so as not to spread the coronavirus.

“I would be so sad to not to be able to visit my dad in this situation because every day was a gift with him, and people are being robbed of those gifts of being with their loved ones,” said Ashley Campbell, 33, Glen Campbell’s daughter.

Families of those living here learned firsthand about coping and caregiving during COVID-19 from the country music star’s widow and daughter.

Glen Campbell is perhaps known best for his 1975 hit, Rhinestone Cowboy. The entertainer died from Alzheimer’s in a memory care facility three years ago.

His widow, Kim, now runs Careliving.org and a foundation to guide families in her same situation.

She volunteered one afternoon this week to share her experiences with worried families.

“Maybe they can take some comfort in knowing their loved one does not experience time in the same way that they do. Glen, if he were there, would not realize that one day had passed, a week had passed or one month had passed,” she said. “They’re living in the moment taking each day at a time.”

Eric Gruendemann, who was on the call, asked the Campbells whether any specific genre of music helped Glen during his later stages of Alzheimer’s.

“The more familiar the better,” said Ashley Campbell, a performer herself, “because they can’t really create new memories necessarily so bringing up what’s left of what they have is really important.” 

Credit: AP Images for Alzheimer’s Asso
American Music Legend Glen Campbell performs with his daughter Ashely Campbell at the Alzheimer’s Association Evening with Glenn Campbell at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 16, 2012. The evening was an opportunity for members of Congress to learn about the Alzheimer's epidemic. (AP Images for Alzheimer’s Association/Cliff Owen)

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“When I would play live shows for the residents there,” she added, “the real hit song was always, ‘You are My Sunshine.’”

“This is very helpful. Not only are we not seeing our parent or spouse, but we aren’t seeing people who take care of them,” said Judy Hohman, who participated in the Zoom call, because her mother is currently receiving long term care.

That isolation for families leads to loneliness. So, actress Jane Seymour started the open-hearted challenge and urged friends like the Campbells to be generous with their time while society is locked down.

“When you have a chance to help other people, it makes you happy to. It helps you. It works for everybody,” Seymour told the participants after admitting her uncle had Alzheimer’s, as well.

Kim Campbell wrote a memoir called Gentle on My Mind which documents her marriage to Glen Campbell and his deterioration with Alzheimer’s. 

She’s now planning a follow-up book specifically for families dealing with the disease.

While quarantined at home, Kim said she is also choreographing a musical program for memory care communities like the one where her husband lived.

With event venues closed, Ashley Campbell said she’s now teaching banjo lessons on Skype, and staying in touch with her fans that way.

Music remained a powerful medicine during Glen’s final years, Kim shared, when the familiar was no longer recognizable.

With all that is in short supply right now, the hour-long question and answer proves that kindness is not.

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