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Posted at 06:55 PM ET, 06/22/2011

Glen Campbell, Alzheimer’s and seeming drunk

I was plenty sad to hear that musician Glen Campbell has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He, his wife and his family probably have a rocky road ahead.

It also made me sad to hear why his wife, Kim Woollen, felt it necessary to disclose Campbell’s condition: As she told People magazine, “... 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?’ ”

Campbell, 75, has of course had his issues with alcohol and public drunkenness. But the fear that a person with Alzheimer's may be mistaken for the town drunk is one that’s all too familiar to people who have watched loved ones suffer from this awful disease.

People with Alzheimer’s indeed often display behaviors associated with inebriation — and to all manner of other behaviors that don’t go over well in polite society. Their caretakers have to endure a lot of disapproving looks from strangers who have no clue.

Glen Campbell apparently intends to continue performing; he’s got a farewell tour planned. More power to him. But there will come a time when he just can’t get up there and sing anymore. It may be hard for him and his family to recognize when that time has arrived; they may try to cling to what once was reality, reluctant to give in to the new reality, for a while. People around them will need to be patient and cut them some slack. And not assume Mr. Campbell is drunk.

By  |  06:55 PM ET, 06/22/2011

 
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