‘Glen Campbell Loves the Lord’

In an exclusive interview, Kim Campbell shares the couple's deep faith as they battle her husband's Alzheimer's

by Deirdre Reilly | Updated 13 Mar 2016 at 9:39 AM

Glen Campbell, one of America’s most beloved country and pop artists, is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. The degenerative brain disorder robs sufferers of their memories, their mental faculties, a properly functioning body, and eventually, life itself.

Kim Campbell, wife of Glen Campbell, is drawing on her Christian faith to help her through the painful odyssey, as well as her work with the I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund, a non-profit that has blossomed out of a 2014 documentary about Glen Campbell, his diagnosis, and his last tour.

“I don’t think I would make it if I didn’t have the Lord,” she told LifeZette in an exclusive interview about dealing with her husband’s illness. “I recently heard someone say, ‘Without a test, there’s no testimony.'”

Her husband, who once thrilled the world with his singing in such hits as “Gentle on my Mind” and “Wichita Lineman,” now cannot understand what others say to him or speak back to them. But he is strong and healthy physically — and cheerful and content. He lives in a Nashville memory care unit.

“We’ve been married for 34 years and I can understand what he’s trying to say,” said Kim Campbell. “He has a great sense of humor, and he loves to tell jokes. I can tell he’s telling one by his mannerisms.  He just laughs and laughs, which makes me laugh, and my laughing brings him great joy.”

She added, "There’ a sweetness in every moment we have."

"Although Glen can’t communicate — what comes out now is sort of a ‘word soup’ — there are things he still says: ‘I love you," or ‘Where you been?' He doesn’t even think about saying them. They’re phrases he is just so used to saying through the year, and they come out," Campbell explained.

Glen Campbell was diagnosed in 2011. "When this all started, Glen would say things like, 'Who turned the cold water on?’ when he really meant to say, ‘Who turned the air conditioning on?’ We didn’t know then it was this disease."

Kim Campbell has a morning routine that prepares her for the day.

"I have many responsibilities. I have children and grandchildren who also need me," she said.

Glen Campbell has eight adult children, three of whom he shares with Kim Campbell. "Instead of waking up and saying, ‘Oh no, here I am in this nightmare,’ I start counting my blessings," she told LifeZette. "I ask the Lord, 'Make me a blessing to others.'"

Campbell gets through the rest of each day with prayer and positivity. "I put all my trust in the Lord to make it through," she said simply. "I listen to Joel Osteen (radio host, senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston) each morning. His message is so positive and encouraging," she said.

"I also look at examples in the Bible. Just look at Hebrews 11 — the ‘Hall of Fame’ of faith. I look at the example they set. I look at Job, and his trials. 'The Lord walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.'"

Her husband has had his moments of blessing as well.

"Even with Alzheimer’s and its struggles, I’ll never forget one day when Glen could still speak. He walked to the window, looked out at the trees, and said, ‘Thank you, Heavenly Father.’ So he is still blessed, even with all he’s been through," said his wife.

"Glen loves the Lord," she added. "He’s been through a lot — alcoholism, and now Alzheimer’s. But he has been a great patriarch in our home, leading the kids in love and righteousness."

Kim Campbell is frustrated by outdated terms for the decisions that come with dementia.

"Glen is not in a ‘nursing home' — that term is so outdated. And nobody ‘put’ him anywhere," she said. "Our family joined a memory support community. We are all involved."

Campbell speaks with great pride of her husband’s recent accomplishments. "Last year Glen was nominated for an Oscar (for Best Original Song) and he won a Grammy for ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You,’" she noted.

Glen Campbell co-wrote that song and it appeared in "Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me," the 2014 documentary about Campbell’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and his final tour.

Of the documentary, Kim Campbell said, "Part of his making the film was to remove the stigma of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. You can certainly understand the Reagans, for example, being private about Ronald Reagan’s diagnosis — he was the president, after all, and they chose privacy and dignity. But Glen is a sharing person, and he wanted to share what he was going through."

Campbell’s friends and her network are critical.

"I have great women I meet with who are going through this, too, and I stay in touch with other families I have met, all going through different stages of Alzheimer’s," she said. "It helps me to prepare. And it’s so hard to walk alone."

The I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund is very important to Campbell and to her kids. The fund plans to educate the public about the disease, fund research for treatment and a cure, and develop programs for caregivers.

"Our work," she said, "gives a sense of purpose to this tragedy."

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