Kimberly Williams-Paisley is “busy, busy, busy, ” she says on her one day off in Vancouver. But make no mistake: “The busy-ness is by choice,” says the actress, 47, who lives in Nashville with her husband of 16 years, Brad Paisley, 46, and their sons, Huck, 12, and Jasper, 10.

It was at her wedding to Paisley that she first noticed something was wrong. Her mother seemed irrationally upset about the ceremony and had trouble reading a Bible passage.

Williams-Paisley’s mother was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a degenerative brain disease they later found out was caused by Alzheimer’s. Looking back, Williams-Paisley regrets their first instincts to try to keep her mother’s struggles hidden.

“We really let the stigma take control,” she says, “like it was her fault, or that it meant she wasn’t smart.” It not only inhibited them from reaching out for advice and support—it also prevented their father from getting the kind of support he really needed. “My dad wanted to be Superman and take care of her as he always did,” she says.

In many ways, Williams-Paisley says, caregivers are at a greater risk than the patient they’re caring for. Her father eventually had a heart-attack scare and became “like a shell of his former self,” so they finally made the difficult choice to enter their mother into long-term care—one of the hardest moments in the course of her mom’s disease.

Read more in Parade.

Featured image: Kathy Hutchins /