At age 66, singer David Cassidy recently revealed he is in the early stages of dementia, a disease he says, both his mother and grandfather suffered from. “I sensed this was coming,” Cassidy recently revealed.  “I have actually feared this for quite a while.” 

The singer, actor and former teen idol who portrayed Keith Partridge on the musical sitcom “The Partridge Family” from 1970 to 1974, recently announced that his dementia diagnosis has also forced him to stop performing. While Cassidy will no longer be playing nightly shows in front of sold-out crowds, he says “I will still play my guitar every single day.” 

Dementia, a condition hallmarked by chronic memory loss, can make life extremely challenging. “The classic way dementia manifests itself is with short term memory,” explains Jared Brosch, M.D., neurologist at Indiana University Health, “not knowing days and dates, asking the same questions over and over.  Another way it can present itself is with getting lost.”

 “Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia,” says Dr. Brosch.  “Although memory loss is a term used frequently, it is not defined as an illness. Dementia means a person has measureable cognitive changes impacting daily life while memory loss may be non-pathologic as there are some slight changes to memory that occur with age.”

With more attention being focused on the condition, many ask about prevention. For instance, was there anything Cassidy could have done to prevent his current situation? “Likely not,” says Dr. Brosch.  “Knowing that David Cassidy has had several family members with issues, he was certainly at higher risk. And we know that some patients suffer from a purely genetic form.”

That said, as always, leading a healthy lifestyle is helpful, since studies have shown that people who stay physically active and prevent and/or manage chronic conditions may stave off dementia.  Keeping a watchful eye on the usage of some over-the-counter products can also be key. “For instance, over the ingredients in some sleep aids have been shown to increase the incidence of dementia,” says Dr. Brosch.

Ultimately the progression of the disease, on average, is around a decade.  “Some individuals have a faster course”, adds Dr. Brosch.  “Here at IU Health, we have been working on identifying biomarkers that may help identify individuals who have a more rapid progressing disease.”  

Presently, he says, there are over 20 clinical trials going on right now to help treat various forms of dementia and there has been some success with four FDA approved drugs to slow the progression of AD and dementia.

In the meantime, David Cassidy says dementia has helped him take a pause to reflect. “I’m now going to devote more time to me as a person as opposed to me as a professional,” he says. “I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been without any distractions. I want to enjoy life.”

-- By Bonnie Siegler


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