As an umbrella term used to describe memory-related conditions, dementia spans across all demographics, social strata, and geographic regions —including Hollywood. In fact, many people of celebrity are currently living with dementia or previously lived with a form of dementia.
We've outlined some of the most well-known people you perhaps didn’t know were living with or have lived with memory loss.
Beginning his career as a stand-up comedian during the 1970s, Robin Williams would eventually solidify himself as one of the best comedians and actors of his generation. His role as the alien Morty in the TV series Mork & Mindy shot him to superstar status, where at its peak was attracting over 6 million viewers.
He received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the film Good Will Hunting, in addition to six Golden Globe Awards and five Grammy Awards. Although his passing in 2014 caught many people by surprise, the autopsy afterward showed that Robin lived with Lewy Body Dementia.
His widow, Susan Schneider Williams, blames the condition for her husband’s deteriorating mental health and not the rumors that drugs and alcohol were the primary factors to his death.
One of the most famous people with dementia was also one of the prominent actresses of the 20th century, Rita Hayworth. She achieved fame during the 1940s and became one of the era’s most beloved icons, dubbed “The Love Goddess” by the tabloids.
As an iconic beauty of the decade, she naturally became one of the most popular pin-up girls for GIs during World War II. Her career started as a backup dancer in the 1926 short film La Fiesta, and she would eventually star in 61 films before finally retiring in 1972.
After displaying dementia-like symptoms for over a decade, Rita was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1980 before passing away in 1987. Her death helped spread awareness of the disease which was relatively unknown by most of the public at that time.
Her daughter and caretaker, Yasmin Aga Khan, has become an outspoken philanthropist on the subject who serves on the Board of Directors for Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Association in addition to being the president of Alzheimer's Disease International.
Best known for her refusal to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was a civil rights activist who gained recognition after her arrest and contributions to the Montgomery bus boycott. Although she is celebrated today for her courage to fight up to injustice, at the time her actions led to her being fired and receiving numerous death threats over the years that followed.
Her unwavering courage helped spark the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and she became one of the memorable faces of civil disobedience. Despite the obstacles, she persevered and continued to live a quiet life until she was diagnosed and passed from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 92.
Currently the third-highest winning coach in the history of NCAA Women’s Basketball, Pat Summit served as the head coach of the University of Tennessee from 1974 until 2012. Even though she received a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2011, she finished one last year of coaching before retiring.
As a trailblazer, her accomplishments include 16-time SEC Tournament Champion, 7-time NCAA Coach of the Year, 8-time NCAA Champion, and inductee into the 2013 FIBA Hall of Fame.. just to name a few!
After her death in 2016, the University of Tennessee Medical Center opened the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic. To honor Pat and her contributions to the sport, the NCAA created the Pat Summitt Award as a way of recognizing individuals who have a positive influence on college athletes.
Hollywood actor who later became the 33rd Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. He defied all odds when he eventually became the 40th president of the United States.
Dubbed the “Great Communicator” because of his ability to captivate audiences, Regan was able to get re-elected largely due to his optimistic view on the American future. One of his most famous quotes, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” is recognized as a significant turning point to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in East Germany.
After politics, he lived a simple life in Los Angeles, California and was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 83. After battling the disease for a decade, he eventually died of pneumonia at the age of 93.
You Are Not Alone! Contact the LIAD Center for Tailored Support & Guidance
Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, but there is an entire team of experienced support at the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia (LIAD) Center here for you. At the LIAD Center, we offer a range of different caregiver services, including peer-based caregiver support groups facilitated by an experienced Licensed Social Worker. We encourage you to reach out to the LIAD Center today to learn more about our services and solutions we offer those living with dementia and their caregivers.
Contact the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center today by calling (516) 767-6856 or visit us on www.lidementia.org.