Singer Tony Bennett Reveals His Fight with Alzheimer's

Tony Bennett is the latest with the announcement he has Alzheimer's. Many of the celebrities we grew up with over the years are experiencing changes in their health.

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Singer Tony Bennett Reveals His Fight with Alzheimer's
4 Min Read February 1st, 2021 Updated:November 23rd, 2021

You know him for songs like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," 95-year-old Tony Bennett has revealed through the AARP that he has had Alzheimer's since 2015.  

Nearly 50 million people have Alzheimer's or type of dementia worldwide. Alzheimer's is a common affliction, with one in ten people age 65 and older are dealing with this cognitive decline. Most people who have Alzheimer's are women.

The majority of people with dementia are older. That number is growing due to longevity, although a growing number of people have early-onset Alzheimer's disease primarily because of better diagnosis of the condition.

Family Reveals in AARP Interview

A feature report published by AARP magazine revealed his condition. Bennett thanked AARP on Twitter for letting him tell his story. 

"Life is a gift -- even with Alzheimer's. Thank you to Susan and my family for their support and @AARP The Magazine for telling my story," he wrote.

Social media has reacted to this revelation.

Condition Progressing

Bennett says the condition is progressing. Alzheimer's gets worse over time, robbing people of their memory - their history - and changing who they are as a human being over time. It often leaves the person completely dependent on caregivers to supervise them and help them with daily activities.

The AARP story says he, so far, has been spared the disorientation that often causes people to wander from home. Plus, Bennett has not had any terror, rage, or depression episodes that often go along with the disease. 

His singing and his music have been benefiting him, slowing the progression of the condition. Bennett has been able to perform, being confused just before a performance, but when the announcer introduces him, he can get into performance mode.

Music Helps Bennett and Others With Dementia

Music is a powerful medicine for many with dementia, according to Dan Cohen, MSW principal of Right to Music that advocates for the widespread adoption of personal music for caring for those with dementia.

"Staying connected with our favorite songs is calming, enjoyable, and helps reduce feelings of isolation and depression. This, in turn, reduces caregiver stress. If persons who are moving through the stages of dementia are calmer and caregivers are not overwhelmed, the need to find a long-term care facility is reduced," Cohen said.

Cohen explains that some parts of the brain remain relatively intact, allowing people with dementia to still enjoy their favorite music. This could explain how Bennett is functioning reasonably well, especially when performing his favorite songs.

The precise mechanism that causes music to have this type of impact remains a mystery, and Cohen says music therapy for those with dementia works most of the time.

"There is no downside to trying; no side effects if it doesn't work. The key is keeping the music personal, true favorites," Cohen explained. 

TV Special

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet are singing together, for one last time, on a CBS-TV special. Music memories seem to be the last to be lost, perhaps because music stimulates the brain. Bennet is not expected to perform again in the future.

Perceived Sigma

The family has stayed silent about his condition due to what they perceive as the disease's stigma. However, it will be hard for anyone to ignore the problem as more and more Americans enter their 60s and 70s when cognitive decline usually first gets noticed. 

Many families must step in and provide the care and supervision that is normally required for someone with cognitive decline. Many people are unaware that health insurance, including Medicare, will not pay for this type of long-term health care. Families step in as caregivers, or assets get drained for paid care services - or both. 

Only Long-Term Care Insurance offers benefits for dementia and other long-term health care people require due to changes in health, body, and mind.

Caregiving is Physically and Emotionally Draining on Family

Caregiving is both physically and emotionally demanding. Adult children often find themselves in the role of being "parents" of their parents. This role of caregiver creates numerous problems as they have their own career and family responsibilities to juggle with their new role of caregiver for mom or dad. 

Paid long-term care services are expensive, and the costs continue to rise with greater demand and fewer available caregivers. You can see the current and future cost of long-term care by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator available by clicking here

Bennett joins a growing list of celebrities that have had to address memory problems. Many of the stars that we grew up with in the music industry, TV, movies, and sports suffer from memory problems and other long-term care issues as they are getting older. 

Of course, we, too, are getting older. Today we can plan for the financial costs and burdens of aging with affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. 


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LTC News Contributor James Kelly

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