Welcome Dr. Ronald Petersen

I greatly appreciate to the opportunity to contribute to Kim Campbell’s new website, CareLiving.org – a resource for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s and other diseases. I can think of no one who is more qualified to discuss caregiver issues and emphasize the importance of the caregiver maintaining her or his own health than Kim.

I was honored to be involved with the documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. This film was tremendously impactful in characterizing Glen’s journey through Alzheimer’s disease while still doing what he knew best: entertain. The impact of the film was noteworthy from several perspectives.

Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D. - Dr. Petersen
Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D.

On the one hand, it demonstrated that a person need not retreat into seclusion once the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease has been made. In fact, the person can stay quite active and functional for a significant period of time after the diagnosis. In Glen’s case, he decided to go through with his final tour.

He had finished recording his last album, Ghost on the Canvas, and then was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He, his family and crew met to decide on whether or not to tour, and the unanimous decision was reached: “Yes, let’s do it.” The subsequent 151 shows demonstrated that with the support of his wife, Kim, his children in the band (Ashley, Shannon, and Cal), and the team that had been with him for decades, he was able to function quite well. As a result, he and his family enjoyed what they had been doing for decades, entertaining throngs of adoring fans. Kim and children could not have been happier with that decision because it allowed them an additional 18 months to spend time with the man they love, doing what he always loved doing. The response from the fans was amazing since many of them grew up with Glen’s music and they were totally understanding and accepting of his condition.

The second take-home message from the film pertained to the role played by his primary caregiver, Kim. The film captured her love and devotion, and those attributes made Glen’s life maximally enjoyable. No doubt there were difficult moments when behavioral issues arose, and many touchy issues that could have produced negative publicity were encountered, but Kim and family managed them like pros. Many viewers of the documentary commented that they were experiencing similar challenges as Kim, and they were buoyed up by the manner in which she lovingly handled the often thankless job of caregiving.

CareLiving.org is a result of Kim’s experience and her willingness to share her experiences with others. It is through the altruism of people like Kim that we all benefit from this wealth of knowledge. I applaud Kim, Glen, and the family for launching this effort which should be of enormous support to those dealing with this dreaded disease.

Ronald C. Petersen, PhD, MD
Professor of Neurology
Director, Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
Rochester, MN

Ed note: This is the first CareLiving post from Dr. Petersen, who will be keeping our readers updated on research and direction in the field of Alzheimer’s as he and his colleagues make progress in defeating this terrible disease.