Tony Bennett and his family are going public with his four-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. The 94-year-old musician opened up about his diagnosis in a profile for AARP Magazine on Monday.
The profile reveals that Bennett was first diagnosed in 2016. Alzheimer's disease is defined as "a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die," according to the Mayo Clinic. "Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person's ability to function independently."
Bennett's doctor, Gayatri Devi, who diagnosed him in 2016, shared that he has “cognitive issues, but multiple other areas of his brain are still resilient and functioning well.”
“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," Devi says of Bennett.
After the pandemic started last year, the family let Bennett's assistant go in order to minimize his exposure to COVID-19, and his wife, Susan, has taken over most of his care.
“He would ask me, ‘What is Alzheimer's?’ I would explain, but he wouldn't get it," Susan says. "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."
In the piece, it is revealed that Bennett's longtime collaborator, Lady Gaga, has been aware of his diagnosis for years and approved of the family's decision to go public.
“I wanted to check with her to make sure she was cool,” Bennett's son, Danny, shares."Because she watches his back all the time. She was like, ‘Absolutely, it's just another gift that he can give to the world.’“
Susan also got emotional when discussing her husband's current state, saying, "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."