Originally published in the June 23, 2014 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
We reported and were saddened by the news that Glen Campbell was put in a home to live out his days with Alzheimer’s. Soon after that news broke, one of our writers got a call from Glen’s daughter from his first marriage, Debby. She was looking for an outlet to tell her story. The story that she says has her wanting her father to come home from the facility. We obliged and on the pages of this issue of CW you will hear her version of her fight for her father. It’s a heartbreaking story that she told here at the Country Weekly offices. In this cover feature, you will hear what she has to say about caring for her famous father, Glen Campbell.
I want to make it perfectly clear that this is Debby’s side of the story. As we know there are two sides to every story. We contacted Glen’s representatives for comment and we did not hear by press time. Read Debby’s story about her dad below.
Many were shocked when the news broke in April that Glen Campbell was placed into an assisted living facility in Nashville earlier this year as a result of his battle with Alzheimer’s, but none felt the blow like the singer’s oldest daughter, Debby Campbell.
According to Debby, she along with her siblings from Glen’s previous marriages and his own siblings had to find out by seeing it in the news and on Twitter.
“It is really sad when you find out that your parent has been put in a facility,” Debby tells Country Weekly in an exclusive talk about her father’s health. “It’s hard to read it or hear about it on the news rather than hearing it from his wife of 31 years. I feel that she should have not made her decision based on how we felt, but at least given us the respect to know that was her plans were. We were just very upset for obvious reasons.”
Debby, who resides in Arizona with her husband, booked herself on the first flight to Nashville upon hearing the news to see her father face-to-face. “When I went in to see him, he looked at me and we just hugged each other,” recalls Debby with tears in her eyes. “The caregivers that witnessed our meeting got Kleenex out and gave it to me and themselves, as they were crying also. They saw how Dad and I were with each other, and the genuine love that we feel for each other.”
Glen, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, was moved from his Southern California home to the Nashville area as his condition began to decline earlier this year. In April, he was placed into a care facility.
Speaking to People Magazine, Glen’s wife Kim explained that placing him in the facility was a difficult decision to make but one she and her children felt was in his best interests. “There were five of us taking care of him and we were all completely exhausted,” she said. “No one was getting any sleep and we were just struggling every second to keep him safe – we felt like it wasn’t safe anymore.”
Debby, on the other hand, feels the Nashville area home wasn’t right for her dad. “I was hoping it would be a home that would be suitable for my dad who has Alzheimer’s, but I don’t know how you could keep up with him in a house that size,” Debby says. “Here she knows she is moving to Nashville, and her husband has Alzheimer’s. . .now my dad is in a facility, but he’s paying for an 8,500 square foot home. I guess I have a problem wrapping my head around all of this.”
In the meantime, Debby has been working on a solution to have Glen taken out of the assisted living home and moved in with her so she can tend to his needs. “I want to take my dad home and take care of him. I know that he is getting along great with the people who are at the facility, but that’s not how I feel–as his daughter–he should spend the rest of his life,” she explains. “I feel like he should be surrounded by loved ones at home, and I want to take care of him. I know my other siblings from other previous marriages feel the same way I do. We just want him cared by loved ones.
“He wants to go home,” adds Debby, softly. “He has told me that numerous times. The first thing he always says when I see him is ‘I want to go home.’ When I left him last time, I said, ‘Dad, I have to go now, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.’ He said, ‘Why can’t I go with you?’ What can I say to him? He won’t remember in two minutes what I say to him, but it just breaks my heart.”
Debby and her siblings are of the view that having Glen back at home and out of the facility may actually increase his quality of his life. “A lot of people have been telling me that facilities have been known to make their health decline,” she says. “I was cautioned if he remained in a facility, he would probably be gone within a year. That is not OK with me to hear that. I don’t like the idea that my father could possibly be gone in a year and die in a facility instead of around loved ones.”
At 78 years old, Glen still remains in excellent health and great spirits in spite of the disease’s debilitating effects on his mind. Part of that, she says, is just having stimulation from different sources. “I feel as a musician and as a singer, he needs music around him every single day,” says Debby. “One time I was there, we had a DVD playing of some of Dad’s old TV shows. He would be walking around the room, and then would walk over to the TV and go, ‘Wow … there’s Dean!’ It was him and Dean Martin. Then my grandma and grandpa came on, and he looked and said, ‘Oh there’s my mom! And there’s my dad! Oh, I love it!’ He was just standing there watching them sing. Music is what stimulates him.
“He doesn’t sing a lot anymore, but I think that’s because he can’t hear very well anymore,” continues Debby. “But his guitar is there in the facility for him when he wants to play it. It’s funny,” she adds with a smile, “when I’m with him and he’s playing guitar, he will keep reverting back to the old songs that he grew up listening to like old Hank Williams riffs. He just keeps going back to that instead of playing the songs that he made famous, which I find interesting. I guess that’s what Alzheimer’s does: you want to keep going back to the past.”
And though she and her siblings can’t go back to the past with their father, they do have the future ahead of them, along with the wish to have Dad back home.
“My dad is left in a facility to eat his meals by himself, sometimes get shaved and sometimes get his hair washed if the caregivers can get that done,” Debby says with a shaky voice. “That is something I feel a loved one could handle and get done. My heart won’t let me be OK with this situation. I just hate it for him because it’s not right.
“Sometimes he breaks down crying when I’m with him,” she adds. “He’ll hold my hand, and he’ll just start crying. He’ll say, ‘I love you so much. Thank you, my precious daughter, for being my best friend.’ He’ll say that to me, and that shocks me because he’s still in there. Unfortunately, my hands are tied, and I can’t do anything about it. So all I can do is come to Nashville and sit with my dad and hold his hand and tell him I love him and just be with him as much as I can. I just want my dad to have the best quality of life he can possibly have, surrounded by loved ones for every phase that this disease will take him.”