Watching a parent suffer the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking experience. It is hard, then, to imagine how that experience could become worse, but sadly, the family of famed country singer Glen Campbell is living this reality every day.
According to a recent article in the New York Post, Campbell’s family members and friends report that his fourth wife, Kim Campbell, is dramatically restricting the amount of time that her husband’s five adult children from previous marriages are allowed to spend with their father. He now lives at a facility for Alzheimer’s patients in Nashville.
The troubled relationship between Campbell’s adult children and his wife became so acrimonious that a lawsuit was filed in January to wrest control over Campbell’s medical and financial decisions. His wife is accused of rarely visiting him, keeping him hidden from the family and not allowing family members to participate in his care and/or treatment.
The lawsuit accuses Kim Campbell of not providing him with essentials, including toiletries and clothing, possibly mishandling his finances, and not allowing his children to visit, while allowing Campbell to be interviewed and filmed by others.
The case had been ordered to go into mediation, but on April 21, the children and their stepmother reached a tentative agreement. The terms are heartbreaking – visits twice a month, and only after seven day’s notice given to their stepmother, no cell phones or cameras, and other restrictions known only to the parties involved.
This is a very sad story, with no happy ending.
During the many years that I have been practicing in this area of law, I have seen many similar situations. Advance planning, when the parent is still in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia, can alleviate some, but not all, of these issues.
A more optimal solution is to do the necessary estate planning while the parents are healthy and when the relationship between the couple and members of the extended families are respectful and productive. Ideally, this would begin with a prenuptial agreement and include all necessary estate planning documents.
In situations where the dynamics between multiples wives and children are difficult, it may be useful to work with a therapist who is experienced in the special challenges that face multiple families. It would require a willingness to participate in family therapy, which is not always the case. When family members cannot agree to work well together, a well-created estate plan that prepares for the future may be the best and only option.