Glen Campbell still singing despite Alzheimers diagnosis

Today People magazine revealed that singer Glen Campbell has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. In the interview with Campbell, 75, and his wife Kim, the “Rhinestone Cowboy” say that they wanted the public to know about his condition as they plan a final “farewell”tour for the singer.

“Glen is still an awesome guitar player and singer,” says Kim. “But if he flubs a lyric or gets confused on stage, I wouldn’t want people to think, ‘What’s the matter with him? Is he drunk?'”

The Grammy-award winning singer has been having memory problems for several years, but was only diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease 6 months ago.

Here is a video of Campbell singing one of his many hits: Gentle on My Mind. I will also put a video of Campbell singing Wichita Lineman on our Facebook page.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. A related problem, mild cognitive impairment(MCI), causes more memory problems than normal for people of the same age. Many, but not all, people with MCI will develop AD.

In AD, over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members or have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.

AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease.

There are three major hallmarks in the brain that are associated with the disease processes of AD.

  1. Amyloid plaques, which are made up of fragments of a protein called beta-amyloid peptide mixed with a collection of additional proteins, remnants of neurons, and bits and pieces of other nerve cells.
  2. Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), found inside neurons, are abnormal collections of a protein called tau. Normal tau is required for healthy neurons. However, in AD, tau clumps together. As a result, neurons fail to function normally and eventually die.
  3. Loss of connections between neurons responsible for memory and learning. Neurons can’t survive when they lose their connections to other neurons. As neurons die throughout the brain, the affected regions begin to atrophy, or shrink. By the final stage of AD, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.

No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time. These drugs help individuals carry out the activities of daily living by maintaining thinking, memory, or speaking skills. They can also help with some of the behavioral and personality changes associated with AD. However, they will not stop or reverse AD and appear to help individuals for only a few months to a few years. Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Reminyl) are prescribed to treat mild to moderate AD symptoms. Donepezil was recently approved to treat severe AD as well. The newest AD medication is memantine (Namenda), which is prescribed to treat moderate to severe AD symptoms.
For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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