Families in Turmoil Over Alzheimer’s Care — Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell with his wife, Kim, and his daughter, Ashley (from examiner.com).

Imagine this scenario: You have a loved one who has dementia and needs more care than you can provide. Your family members don’t agree on what to do, and your loved one can no longer express an opinion. Court proceedings follow, and a family that was once united is now at odds. Unfortunately, this happens way too often, and is currently occurring in the family of country icon, Glen Campbell.

Glen Campbell, 78, has been married four times and has eight children. He is famous for his country music, as a television host, and occasional actor. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and has won multiple Grammy awards. In June 2011, Campbell made an announcement to his fans that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the early stages of his Alzheimer’s, Campbell went on to record two albums and play more than 150 concerts. At the time, his wife, Kim, said the tour was a way to help her husband combat his Alzheimer’s and spend time with family members who made up his band and traveled with him, including his three youngest children from his current marriage, and daughter from one of his previous marriages, Debby Campbell-Cloyd.

To keep the memory of his life and work alive, in 2012, Campbell recorded a touching video for his song, “A Better Place,” where he revisited his life and career before Alzheimer’s, and flipped through a book of memories as he said farewell. He reflected on his childhood, the start of his music career, and his later life as he performed the song in interspersed cuts. In the video, Campbell shared a personal message to his wife, Kimberley, and to his fans.
Campbell also starred in a documentary entitled, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” which followed his farewell tour, even as he struggled with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Last month, he won a Grammy for his song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” which plays at the conclusion of the documentary. The song also was nominated for an Oscar.
Family Unrest
As Campbell’s Alzheimer’s progressed and he needed more care than the family could provide, differences in opinion caused a rift in his family. His daughter, Debby, and a son from a previous marriage, Travis, are currently fighting his wife, Kim, for control of the country singer’s medical care at an Alzheimer’s Disease treatment facility in Tennessee. According to the petition, Debby Campbell-Cloyd and Travis Campbell claim that Kim isn’t providing him with toiletries and clothing, while possibly mishandling finances and keeping him “secluded from the rest of the family.” The petition asks a judge to appoint conservators and a guardian to protect Glen’s interests.
In an interview with Country Weekly, Campbell-Cloyd criticized the Nashville care facility and made a plea to take her father back home with her to Arizona. She also accused Kim and her children of infrequent visits to see the singer. Campbell-Cloyd also complained that Kim has allowed Glen to be interviewed and filmed at the facility, even though his disease has progressed to a point that the plaintiffs believe is inappropriate to publicly display.
According to Kim, “I am his wife and no one wants him home more than me but I must do what is in his best interest.” Kim further defends her devotion insisting that she visits her husband every day, and that her two Nashville-based children visit him weekly. She insists that she is involved not only in his therapy but also in making sure he is comfortable and happy. The couple’s daughter Ashley, 27, agrees that the move, which occurred in March, was for the best. “[It can be dangerous] with all the household appliances and dish soap liquid and olive oil,” she says. “He’ll drink anything … if you lose concentration for a second, he could hurt himself.”  You can read more about the situation in this ABC News story.
Last year, a similar rift also arose inside the family of radio legend Casey Kasem. Kasem’s children fought his wife and their daughter to take cotrol of his medical decisions while he was in the throes of dementia, before his June death.
Family Turmoil- What to Do
Family turmoil over Alzheimer’s care isn’t something new. According to Ruth Drew, Director of Family and Information Services for the Alzheimer’s Association, “With a disease like Alzheimer’s, the strain of grieving happens along the way and the strain of caregiving and financial decisions exacerbate it. Everybody’s heart’s in the right place, but they really disagree about what right is.” Dysfunction happens equally in biological as well as blended families like the Campbells and Kasems. Children may fight spouses, feeling entitlement, even when there is a prenuptial agreement in place. Experts say good planning while the parent is still of sound mind can minimize the damage.
Ellen Goodman, co-founder of The Conversation Project, leads a national effort to get families to “sit down at the kitchen table” and talk about their end-of-life wishes, while parents are still healthy. According to Goodman, “Glen Campbell is among [those] who can’t speak for themselves in the end,” she said. “It’s an emotional story. “Have the conversation as early as you can,” she added. “You give a gift to your own children and tell them what you want when the times comes.”
It’s not easy to talk about how you want the end of your life to play out. But it’s one of the most important conversations you can have with your loved ones. In addition to The Conversation Project,  Eldercare.gov, or the Eldercare Locator, recently released “Let’s Talk, Starting the Conversation about Health, Legal, and End of Life issues” that includes tips on preparing for the conversation, starting the conversation, keeping the conversation going, and community resources to aid in the planning process. In addition, a growing trend in gatherings, called Death Cafés, is gaining attention for presenting a comfortable way talk about death with others. Read our blog post on this topic for more details.

 

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia is life-changing for both the diagnosed individuals and those close to them.  While it’s not easy to think about, if your loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia, it’s imperative to make an appointment with a Certified Elder Law Attorney such as myself, to determine who to name to make legal, financial, and medical decisions when your loved one is no longer able to do so. In addition, if your loved one hasn’t done so already, it is also of utmost importance to determine how he or she will pay for long-term care without financially bankrupting the family. Please call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax, 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg, 301-519-8041 in Rockville, MD, or 202-587-2797 in Washington, DC to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
 

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  1. This article really illustrates how difficult Alzheimer’s can be on both the patient and the family of that person. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for the family to not agree on how to take care of the loved one suffering from such a disease. The tips on how to determine who to name as the legal and financial decision-maker in advance are really helpful. Thanks!

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