Tony Bennett and his family on Monday revealed that he has been battling Alzheimer’s disease.
The 94-year-old iconic singer was diagnosed in 2016, according to a feature in AARP magazine.
The crooner can still recognize family members, but he is not always sure where he is or what is happening around him, his wife, Susan Crow, said in the AARP interview. She explained that objects, such as a fork or a set of house keys, can baffle him.
Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, who diagnosed Bennett, told the magazine, “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”
Bennett was showing signs of the disease in 2018 when he recorded an upcoming album with Lady Gaga, Crow remembered, telling AAPR she was not entirely sure the singer could handle the sessions. “We’ll try,” she recalled saying then. “That’s all I can tell you. We’ll try.”
Gaga, reportedly aware of his condition, kept her expressions short and simple when they conversed, which is recommended by medical experts of the disease.
Devi strongly encouraged the family to keep Bennett singing and performing for as long as he could happily do so, as “it kept him on his toes and also stimulated his brain in a significant way,” she said. His last public performance was on March 11, 2020, at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey.
However, due to the pandemic, Bennett like most of the country, has remained at home to be safe.
“This has been a real blow from a cognitive perspective,” Devi told AARP. “His memory, prior to the pandemic, was so much better. And he’s not alone. So many of my patients are negatively affected by the isolation, the inability to do the things that matter to them. For someone like Tony Bennett, the big high he gets from performing was very important.”