Although Alzheimer’s disease has robbed country music icon Glen Campbell of his ability to play guitar, his wife Kim says he still sings and occasionally breaks out the air guitar.
“It’s not a melody that we recognize, but you can tell that it’s a happy song and he has a song in his heart,” she said.
Kim credits her husband’s love of music with preventing his dementia from progressing quickly.
“The doctors say that because Glen continued to do music it probably helped him plateau in the early and middle stages longer than he otherwise would have,” she said. “It soothed him when he’d get upset, which is a great thing.”
The singer’s wife of 34 years continued, “I think music therapy is really good for people with dementia — it sparks your memory. They say that music utilizes all the regions of your brain at once, so it’s healthy if you can still produce new neurons, that can help you maintain plateau.”
Even before Glen was diagnosed with the disease in 2011, Kim was taking care of him all day long. He started following her everywhere she went, even if it was circling the pool 15 times or hopping into the shower with her.
Although the constant shadowing was irritating, the diagnosis helped Kim become more patient and understanding.
“Once I knew that he had Alzheimer’s everything started making sense,” she said. “And that fills you with compassion when you can understand it.”
Still, the role of a caregiver isn’t an easy one, and she wanted to let others in her position know they were not alone.
“I want to let people know that there’s hope out there. There’s help out there. They don’t have to do this alone,” she explained. “They can’t do it alone. It will take you down.”
Speaking with PEOPLE at the 10th Annual ACM Honors in September where Glen was honored with a performance by Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban, his daughter Ashley said that he’s still joyful, especially when surrounded by family.
“He’s definitely progressing but he’s been pretty steady lately,” said Ashley. “There’s no giant leaps and bounds, but for the most part he is just in his own world. When I go and visit him, he might notice I’m there and his face will light up and he’ll give me a hug.”