Alzheimer’s disease is devastating for families. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans of all ages currently have Alzheimer’s. While this means five million families are learning how to care for their loved ones with severe dementia, very few other people take time to learn anything about the disease.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Musicians, Artists, and Actors With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
- Politicians, Businesspeople, and Other Notable Figures With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
The awareness for Alzheimer’s grows when famous people release statements saying they have been diagnosed with the disease. There is more written about it in the media, and people read more books about dementia.
Here are some famous people who or had Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The first list includes entertainers, and the second list includes other notable people who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
Musicians, Artists, and Actors With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
The world takes notice when entertainers have Alzheimer’s. Even though it must be difficult for celebrities and their families to release this news to the world, it does raise awareness of the disease.
Here are some musicians, artists, and actors that had dementia or Alzheimer’s, according to the Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation.
1. Charles Bronson
Charles Bronson was known for appearing in tough-guy films, such as The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, and The Great Escape. Although some reports say that Bronson suffered from Alzheimer’s, his official cause of death was pneumonia. Bronson died in 2003.
2. Glenn Campbell
Glenn Campbell was a singer, songwriter, actor, and television show host. He shared his Alzheimer’s diagnosis with the world in 2011. The entertainer helped spread more awareness for the disease when he agreed to be the subject of a documentary called “Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me.” The documentary highlighted his fight with the disease. Campbell died in 2017 at the age of 87.
3. Perry Como
Crooner Perry Como was known for his Christmas television specials and cardigan sweaters. His laid-back style and songs such as “Prisoner of Love” and “No Other Love” made him famous. He died in 2001 after having symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
4. Aaron Copeland
American composer and conductor, Aaron Copeland was celebrated as the “Dean of American Music.” He was known for composing such important pieces as Fanfare For The Common Man, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring. Copeland’s last public appearance was in 1983. He died of Alzheimer’s and respiratory failure in December of 1990.
5. James Doohan
Fans of the original Star Trek will recognize the name, James Doohan. He was the Canadian actor who played the role of Scotty in the acclaimed science fiction series. Doohan announced the world that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He died in 2005.
6. Peter Falk
Actor Peter Falk also gained fame from one particular role. He played Detective Columbo in the long-running series Columbo. He suffered from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the last four years of his life and died in 2011.
7. Estelle Getty
Before you think that only men suffer from dementia, consider Estelle Getty. Getty was most famous for playing the role of Sophia on the Golden Girls. Her official diagnosis was not Alzheimer’s but instead Lewey Body Dementia.
8. Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth was an actress and dancer in the 1940s. She was also known for being a “pin-up girl” for American soldiers during World War II. Rita Hayworth died of Alzheimer’s at the age of 68. Her death garnered a lot of attention for the disease, as she was one of the first major stars who had the diagnosis. She died in 1987.
9. Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston was known for his role in several epic films, including The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. He was also known for his work with the National Rifle Association. He announced to the world that he had Alzheimer’s in 2002. He died five years later.
10. Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem was known for his weekly radio show called American Top 40. Each week, he played the top 40 rated songs on Billboard’s list. He also played the voice of Shaggy on the animated series Scooby-Doo.
Kasem was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and later Lewey Body Dementia. At the end, the disease left him unable to talk. He died in 2014.
11. Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell, one of America’s most famous artists, was known for his covers of Saturday Evening Post. He developed dementia and lost the ability to work during the last six years of his life. He died in 1978.
12. James Stewart
James Stewart starred in dozens of films and was one of America’s biggest stars. Modern viewers would know him for his role in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s later in life and ended up dying in 1997 at the age of 89.
13. E.B. White
Beloved children’s author, E.B. White, died of Alzheimer’s in 1985. His work included the classics Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. While White suffered from memory issues, his son read his work to him.
14. Malcolm Young
Malcolm Young of AC/DC retired from the heavy metal rock band in 2014 due to health reasons. He was reported for receiving treatment for dementia and died in 2017.
15. Eddie Albert
Eddie Albert was most known for his role in the American sitcom, Green Acres. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1995 and died ten years later.
16. Burgess Meredith
Burgess Meredith was known for many roles, including that of the Penguin in the Batman TV show of the 1960s and Mickey, Rocky’s trainer in the Rocky movies. He died of Alzheimer’s in 1997.
Politicians, Businesspeople, and Other Notable Figures With Alzheimer’s or Dementia
It’s not just rock stars and actors who have brought attention to Alzheimer’s. Several other notable figures suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Some of them announced their diagnosis to the world, and others chose to keep their health concerns more private. Here are a few of the famous people who suffered from dementia-related diseases.
17. Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. She was known as the “Mother of the Freedom Movement” for playing a pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2005.
18. Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson died at the early age of 67 from Alzheimer’s disease. He was known for his boxing career, which spanned 1940 to 1965 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
19. Pat Summitt
Pat Summitt was one of the winningest women’s college basketball coaches in history. She spent most of her career at the University of Tennessee and led eight teams to the NCAA National Championship. Summitt retired from coaching basketball after receiving a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. She died when she was 64.
20. Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister in the 1980s and was known for her nickname, “Iron Lady.” She suffered from dementia at the end of her life, but she and her family chose not to disclose this to the public.
21. Pauline Phillips
Most people won’t recognize the name Pauline Phillips, but Phillips was better known as the woman behind the advice column called, “Dear Abby.” Using the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren, Phillips’ column was syndicated in over 1,200 American newspapers. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2004.
22. Ronald Reagan
Ronald Regan served two terms as President from 1981 to 1989. He died in 2004. A month before the President’s death, his wife, Nancy Reagan, released this heartfelt statement, “Ronnie’s long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this, I’m determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain.”
Ronald Reagan’s death brought a great deal of attention to the disease.
Some of the people on this list used their fame to draw attention to Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases. This is certainly admirable because they did not have to disclose their health information to the world, but they did so anyway.
Admiration can also be given to famous cancer survivors who use their position to increase awareness and raise money for important causes.
Let’s not forget the millions of people who died from Alzheimer’s who did not have a famous obituary and the millions who are still suffering from the disease. As you can see from this list, it does not discriminate based on any factors.
- “Famous People With Dementia.” Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation. brevardalz.org/alzheimers-info/famous-people-with-dementia/