COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The world of entertainment is still reeling from the news this week that famed singer Tony Bennett is living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Bennett’s physician, Dr. Gayatri Devi, said it’s important to remember Bennett is “living” with the disease, not “dying” from it.
Devi said Bennett is doing everything right, and the most important thing he is doing is removing the stigma of Alzheimer’s.
The singer went widely public in a magazine interview this week, announcing his diagnosis, but Devi said he has not been hiding it from friends or family.
Since his 2016 diagnosis, she said Bennett was determined to do everything possible to stave off the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which is an organic, progressive brain disease.
Devi called Bennett her hero; he exercises regularly, including jogging. He socializes, eats a healthy diet, and twice a week, he sings during a 90-minute rehearsal session.
“Tony Bennett sent a strong message when he came out to say, ‘Listen, I have Alzheimer’s disease and I am a damn good performer,’ and I want people to take that message and take it to heart that you can have Alzheimer’s and excel in whichever field you are in. You can continue to have a fulfilling life. Don’t shut yourself up.”
Bennett has performed since his diagnosis, and even now, during the pandemic, he continues to record music. Devi said music and dancing are helpful for Alzheimer’s patients because it can bypass circuits in the brain that have been disturbed by the disease.
Mike Lysle had Alzheimer’s with severe memory loss, but never forgot how to dance.
“Patients who sometimes have trouble talking can sing very well,” Devi said. “Patients who have trouble walking can dance very well, so those are some of the circuits that are hard wired very differently in our brain.”
She is convinced whatever you are passionate about, Alzheimer’s should not stop.
“I just got off a telemedicine appointment with a patient of mine who is a journalist and he continues to work as a journalist, even though he has Alzheimer’s,” Devi said. “It is something that he is really good at doing, so even though he has Alzheimer’s, his ability to write a story is still much better than mine.”
And no one sings quite like Tony Bennett.
Bennett’s revelation comes the same week that the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Ohio learned some good news.
The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held virtually this past September, was the 15th most successful walk in the nation last year. And that is out of more than 600 walks held coast to coast.
Many walked in their own neighborhoods, allowing the chapter to raise more than $650,000.