Tony Bennett Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer's, Reveals Family

Tony Bennett Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer's, Reveals Family

The 94-year-old singer was first diagnosed the progressive brain disorder in 2016, but he kept performing until March 2020. 

Singer Tony Bennett performs as he celebrates the release of a new album with Jazz pianist/singer Diana Krall at The Rainbow Room on September 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

"Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks," according to the National Institute on Aging.  Alzheimer's is also understood to be the 6th leading cause of death in America, and nearly 5 million people in the country have already been diagnosed with the condition. Unfortunately, legendary singer Tony Bennett has been living with Alzheimer's for the past few years, it has been revealed by his family, according to TODAY. According to the publication, the 94-year-old singer was first diagnosed with the progressive brain disorder in 2016. 


However, he continued to perform until March last year until the pandemic began, his wife and son shared in the latest issue of AARP The Magazine. While Bennett can still recognize relatives, but often, he finds himself unable to progress what is happening around him, says Susan, 54. “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do," his neurologist, Dr. Gayatri Devi, said. "He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder." Susan, his primary caregiver, says it's not been a bed of roses taking care of Bennett. 


"I have my moments and it gets very difficult,” Susan said. "It's no fun arguing with someone who doesn't understand you. But I feel badly talking about it because we are so much more fortunate than so many people with this diagnosis. We have such a good team." It is only understandable that Bennett continued to perform, despite his diagnosis because music has been such an integral part of his life. The World War II veteran had his first song in 1951 and continued to perform 90-minute sets after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Even then he had his charm, which is why no one even doubted his condition. 


Even if he was disoriented backstage, he had no issue performing once his name was announced. "But that's because he already didn't understand," his wife said. "He would ask me, ‘What is Alzheimer's?’ I would explain, but he wouldn't get it. He'd tell me, ‘Susan, I feel fine.’ That's all he could process — that physically he felt great. So, nothing changed in his life. Anything that did change, he wasn't aware of." A healthy diet and regular exercise are recommended by doctors in preventing Alzheimer's disease, and now Bennett is said to be working out thrice a week with a trainer and practicing the Mediterranean diet. 


“Singing is everything to him,” Susan said. "Everything. It has saved his life many times. Many times. Through divorces and things. If he ever stops singing, that's when we'll know …There's a lot about him that I miss. Because he's not the old Tony anymore. But when he sings, he's the old Tony." Before his illness, Tony was known as a meticulous and hard-driving perfectionist in the studio. While this is a hard topic to talk about, it's not going to help anyone by staying silent about it. Gill Livingston, M.D., a University College London psychiatrist specializing in dementias, said that the silence around Alzheimer's only causes misconceptions and stereotypes to accumulate around the disease. 


This in turn does nothing but create a vicious cycle that leads to further stigmatization and fear. “Panicking and hiding away is really unhelpful,” she said. “What we want is for people to be as open as they can, open within themselves and within their families, so that they can be supported in the things they can't do, and be helped to live a relatively full life. Support makes a great deal of difference.” Soon enough, Alzheimer's will rise to epidemic proportions and staying silent will no longer be an option. Hopefully, Tony Bennett's story will serve as an inspiration to people to be more vocal about the condition as was his life and his music. 


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