Inspiring Stories of People with Dementia

Dementia and cognitive decline are often thought of as curtain call diagnoses, putting an end to individuals’ careers. While it certainly causes changes and requires attention, it does not necessarily mean that we need to bow out gracefully and roll over. Following are some stories of famous celebrities who refused to let their diagnoses define them: Glen Campbell, Terry Bradshaw, and Tony Bennett continued to find success and share their talents with the world despite facing cognitive decline.

Glen Campbell, rose to popularity in the 1960s, and became a household name in country music. An icon for decades, many knew him from his famous song, Rhinestone Cowboy, from 1975. Campbell had been experiencing cognitive decline, including memory lapses and confusion for some time, before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. That did not stop his career though. In 2011, then in his 70s, he began his farewell tour, named, “Goodbye Tour”. This tour lasted several years, showcasing his talent for fans old and new.  Yes, there were forgotten lyrics and canceled shows, but the tour went on. Ghost on the Canvas, his 2011 album, reflects on Campbell’s battle with dementia. It earned critical praise from reviewers.

Terry Bradshaw was an NFL legend on the field, as well as in his role doing color commentary. In 2020, he revealed to the public that he was battling dementia. Despite that, Bradshaw continues his career as a sports commentator through today, and can be seen regularly on Fox NFL Sunday. He still shows that he is capable of the wit and analysis that he has become known for. He also is active as an advocate for dementia awareness, and has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness and funds for research. By sharing his story, Bradshaw is helping to change the conversation around dementia. He demonstrates that the disease doesn’t have to define a person. People with dementia can still lead meaningful lives, contribute to society, and inspire others.

Tony Bennett, the iconic singer, began his career in the 1940s, and rose to fame in the 1950s. He experienced cognitive decline, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016. That did not stop him from performing though. Together with his son, Danny, Bennett continued performing until 2021. Reviewers said that his performances contained more emotion and showed a vulnerability that he’d not previously displayed. His family shared his diagnosis in 2021, leading many to believe that was the source of the new depth. Bennett’s story reminds us of the enduring power of music. Even as cognitive abilities decline, the emotional connection to music can persist. Performing alongside his son added another layer of beauty to Bennett’s story. 

These stories should serve as a source of inspiration for many families facing dementia. Seeing these public figures persevere in the face of adversity offers hope and strength to caregivers and those diagnosed with the disease.