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Q&A with Glen Campbell's Wife Kim and Daughter Ashley

Easterseals speaks to Kim and Ashley before the Chicago premiere of the movie "Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me" in November 2014

Ashley and kim campbell

Q: What have you learned through this journey with Glen? Why was it important to share your journey through a documentary?

Kim: Glen wanted to show people what Alzheimer’s was. We felt that was important too. There’s a stigma surrounding this disease where people get the diagnosis and they’re embarrassed or ashamed. They just seem to immediately retreat and become isolated. And not only is the patient isolated, but the caregivers are isolated as well, because at some point you can’t leave them alone. So what I hope the film does is that it inspires people to keep living their life and to be upfront and tell people “I have Alzheimer’s. My memory’s suffering, so I need a little extra help.” And I hope that caregivers will learn to reach out and let people know that they need help too. One person can’t take care of someone with Alzheimer’s. It takes a team of people, and we found that eventually it took two of us at a time to take care of him, because as you progress in the illness, if one caregiver gets agitated, then the other caregiver can run interference and distract them. So we felt teams worked out best.

Q: When did you realize you were caregivers?

Ashley: I didn’t even hear the term “caregiver” until we were really far into it, until we actually started doing more Alzheimer’s-related things, as opposed to “Glen Campbell concert”-type things. I didn’t even think of the word “caregiver.” I didn't realize I was a caregiver at first.

Kim: It’s just something you instinctively do. Actually, I was doing the bulk of taking care of Glen, and it was mostly on my shoulders, so Ashley moved back home to make sure I was ok and to give me companionship and obviously to help take care of Glen too. But really she was worried about me, because caregivers get depressed and become isolated and need somebody to talk to.

Q: I see. You instinctively do it, but very often, you don’t define yourself in that way as a caregiver---that's what we’ve found. Especially younger people and millennials who don’t realize that if you’re helping a parent, helping a friend, or even helping a child with a disability, you’re a caregiver. So that’s definitely an important message. What is your favorite Glen Campbell song?

Kim: Mine is “Wichita Lineman.”

Ashley: Mine is “Gentle on my Mind.”

Q: What is it you’d like people to know about Glen?

Kim: He’s an amazing husband and father. He loved God. He was an honest man and he always wanted to help people who needed help. He was very generous, and he loved to laugh. One of the challenges his friends always had was if you could come up with a joke he didn’t know already. He loved telling jokes. He loved to laugh. He loved to play golf. He loved being around family.

Q: Ashley, when you think of your dad, what’s a moment in your life together that immediately comes to mind?

Ashley: When I think of my dad, I just think of how every time he first laid eyes on me whenever I would walk in the room or come home, the first thing I would see is a big smile. And it wasn’t just on his face. It was in his eyes.

Ashley Campbell playing guitar

Q: What’s next for you and your music career?

Ashley: I’m about to sign a record deal with Dot Records, which is a branch of Big Machine Label Group. So that’s coming into fruition very soon and then hopefully I’ll start working on an album. I’ve got a lot of songs.

Kim: And I think that a song from the documentary, "Remembering," that she wrote for her father will probably be the second single from the soundtrack.

Ashley: Well, it’s technically the third, but it’s the second original single.

Kim: And then Glen has a song on the charts now from this film called “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” So yeah, you’re right. Yours will be the third song from the soundtrack of this film being released in January.

Q: What advice do you have for caregivers in general?

Ashley: Take time to still enjoy your life.

Kim: You can’t do it by yourself. You need help and you need time for yourself. You need to exercise. You need to go to your own [check-ups] with your own doctors. Ballet is what I do. It’s my therapy for me. I love the music. It’s a way to get away from the whole Alzheimer’s world and just exercise and get the endorphins going.

Q: How did you meet Glen?

Kim: I was dancing at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Ashley: Your best friend was dating Dad’s banjo player, Carl Jackson, who’s my godfather.

Kim: And they fixed us up on a blind date. We’ve been married 30…

Ashley: 32 years. She looks at me for that. (laughs)

Kim: I know! Well, we’ve been together 33 years now. I can’t believe it. I’m getting old!

Q: Is there any message you have for people thinking about seeing the film but are on the fence?

Kim: This film is funny. It’s uplifting. Yes, it deals with Alzheimer’s but it’s not a downer. It’s not depressing. You learn a lot and it’s very educational.

Ashley: It’s not just a serious documentary that you think would be about Alzheimer’s.

Kim: We want people to know that it’s just full of laughter. Because people might go “Oh, it’s about Alzheimer’s. I don’t want to go see this film.”

Q: I never really made the connection until I saw the trailer that people like Taylor Swift really owe Glen a debt of gratitude, because he really was the first to—

Kim: He took country music mainstream. Yeah, he was the first one, and look at how gorgeous. Hello! (points to the movie poster, which has a photo of Glen, and laughs) And he’s one of the best guitar players in the world, so he was the consummate performer.

Q: How are you both doing now? Have you come to terms with Glen's condition?

Kim: I suffer from depression. It's good for me to get out and do this kind of stuff, just to step away from my daily reality. But the minute my eyes open in the morning, I want to cry. [She pauses. Her eyes well up with tears, and she presses her hands to her face to compose herself.] This is my therapy, talking about it. It's tough.

Read our candid Q&A with the director of Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me James Keach.

To read more stories from the front lines of caregiving, visit easterseals.com/carestories.

Explore all of Easterseals caregiving resources here, and find a local Easterseals in your area to help.

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