David Cassidy: A Son's Take on Alzheimer's

Ex-teen-star wants to raise profile of dementia


Last updated: May 18, 2012
David Quattro

Everyone has his or her own story of how Alzheimer's disease or another dementia entered their family's life, but there are often common themes: First, memory and personality changes sneak up on you. Then there's a crisis, and an "uh-oh" moment. It can happen to anyone -- including former teen-dream TV actor and singer David Cassidy, who's begun talking of his mother's dementia to help raise awareness.

"˜My mother has been in 24-hour nursing care for seven years now, and I'm lucky to be able to afford it, but many people aren't that lucky," the former "Partridge Family" star, now 62, told the UK's Daily Mail. "˜People don't really want to talk about it, but we need to, which is why I'm going to be speaking publicly about it.'

(Coincidentally, Cassidy had been scheduled to perform last month in Miami with the late fellow heartthrob Davy Jones, who died of a heart attack a few months earlier.)

It was Cassidy's son who, after a visit noticed that his grandmother, 88-year-old Evelyn Ward, was "acting really weird." The family began to notice she repeated herself a lot, but because visits and calls tended to be brief, they didn't think much of it. "I guess her husband was covering for her memory loss," Cassidy says.

"˜That's kind of the family problem - feeling that sense of shame, despair and panic when things are wrong. There was that sense of denial," Cassidy told the Daily Mail.

Then he received a call from a hospital in California. His mother had been found in the middle of the road in her nightgown, in the middle of the night. She didn't know where she was. That's when they realized the depth of the problem, Cassidy says.

Two years ago, she underwent a rapid decline. Although she still recognizes him, she can no longer walk or talk.

"It would be wrong to say I wish my mother would pass," he says, "but I wish my mother would pass with dignity. It's so painful seeing her like this. It's such a cruel and debilitating disease."

Image by Flickr user zimpenfish, used under a Creative Commons license.

Was this blogpost helpful?

26 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

Anonymous said over 1 year ago

Sadly David Cassidy's mother died in December but we hope he will continue his support for Dementia sufferers. http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/news/01-2013/broadway-and-film-actress-evelyn-ward-has-died_64063.html


almost 2 years ago

I understand how David fels. MY lateAunt frances had Alzheimers' disease. SHe was unable to talk Butif you mentioned Jesu Christ her facewould light up nd she would smile.


about 2 years ago

The purpose of celebrities, should they get involved in causes like Alzheimer's or some other cause, is to raise awareness and funds and to influence government policy/legislation. This is making good use of their public role. Not everyone has the benefit of a public profile to help their relatives, so let's judge Cassidy on what he can do publicly. No one is perfect and all of us have to find ways to adapt to the challenges when our parents' health fails. I live in the UK and my main concern is helping my dad as my mum's carer, with the help of the Alzheimer's Society, which benefits when a high profile person gets involved.


about 2 years ago

My mother died last year of complications from alzheimer's. There needs to be more understanding and less criticism of others. You and I have no idea what someone else's experience is. I am sure Mr. Cassidy doesn't want to pat himself on the back and tell us everything he has done for his mother. It isn't really any of our business. As far as the "mansion" you misread. It is "mission". If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all!


about 2 years ago

Thank you to everyone who has shared their sentiments about caring for someone with Alzheimer's/dementia and about placing loved ones in a care community. Please don't hesitate to continue the conversation in the Alzheimer's/dementia support group (http://www.caring.com/alzheimers-support) or the Assisted Living support group (http://www.caring.com/support-groups/assisted-living). You may copy and past the URL into your browser. Kind regards, Sho of the Caring.com Community Team


about 2 years ago

Thank you for this much needed topic. To be honest, I had a hard time reading it. My dad is 89, out of state and has dementia. I am completely alone handling this, and he was just moived into assisted living. Hopefully I can move my dad here in the next few months, but doing this alone and working is so hard. It kills me inside that he is so far from me, and no family where he is either. Thanks to all who have posted, as you made me feel less alone and I need to face this.


about 2 years ago

I am so sorry that all of you have gone through this agony. I too suffered through the pain of caring for my partner the last 3 years of his life. Bless you all for it is those who care for the ones they love, in whatever way they can, that keeps the dignity for human life alive.


Anonymous said about 2 years ago

What I continually see here (and other places as well) is that it almost always comes down to ONE family member being the caregiver. THIS is a tragedy in and of itself. It ages the caregiver and compromises their health. Sometimes this is because they are the only family member left, but WAAAYYY too often, there are others around that could help - if they would get off their self-centered butts. IT IS NOT A SIN to have to put your parent in a nursing home if you can no longer take care of them. DON'T FEEL GUILTY. And don't feel guilty about having wishes that they would die. THIS IS NORMAL. As one person stated, this is just the shell - it is not my parent anymore. And they are right. I know these things and can now look back retrospectively. I cared for my father for 5 years, and feel lucky that it was just this short amount of time. He was so physically strong (ex football player) and muscular that at the end I could not handle him physically. He could move (and move fast), but he had no sense of balance so he fell. And he could get very violent and beligerant (which were not in his nature). So, to everyone out there now dealing with this as a caregiver - NEVER FEEL GUILTY ABOUT DOING YOUR BEST! That is all anyone can do. The person you are caring for will understand, in passing. MANY HUGGSSSS - You deserve them.


about 2 years ago

Thank you David for this article catching my eye. Two weeks ago my 89 yr dad was put into assisted living. He is out of state and estranged by the entire family. It is only me caring for him, and coordinating everything daily over the phone. This article and those who have added their experiences here, have truly brought light to my darkness. My dad has had many alcoholic dementia issues for many year, now the dementia is getting the best of him. This is killing me. Thank you all for your stories.


about 2 years ago

Hi This is a song I wrote with my friends The Laws so that we can raise an awareness for Alzheimers If you have time watch and if your on facebook please post it Thank you Bsa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuY2_8DWqtA


about 2 years ago

Who cares if its David Cassidy the Queen of England or the King of Spain sharing stories and helping each other cope is what this web site is about shame on those of you who have used this site to criticize anyone.


about 2 years ago

I too am in my sixties and had a similar thing as above happen to me. Although my visits weren't as brief (though they were brief enough) it was easy to write off the "warning signs." Then it happened. Back in December of last year both of my parents were taken out of their home and to a local hospital. Yes they had been "covering" for each other but my mother was worse than my father although he has other problems as well with congestive heart failure and not taking the medications he was prescribed to help him with such problems and not using his oxygen like he was supposed to be doing. I'm an only child which made this situation so much worse. I'm fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband to get me through all of this. They are in assisted living now and my mind is somewhat at ease but I realize we have a long way to go as a country to try and understand what is going on with our elders.


about 2 years ago

I know what you mean. My father has had Alzheimer's for close to 12 years now, my brother and I are caring for him in his own home but it's getting more difficult with each passing day. My father is unable to walk and is pretty much bed ridden, now comes the issues with food and not wanting/able to swallow. I see him slipping more and more each day into the disease and it's heart breaking to say the least. My wish for him is to just go to sleep and not wake up. If that sounds cruel, so be it. For the better part of the day he works himself up by repeating the same things over and over again, each time saying it with more and more gusto till he falls asleep. My father isn't present anymore, what we have left is his shell and it breaks my heart to see him like this. I recall his strength, his wit, his sharp mind and able to talk about anything and everything under the sun. Most people can ill afford a 24/7 facility for their loved one, I know I know I can't yet at the same time I don't know how much longer I'll be able to be his care giver.


about 2 years ago

I would not wish this on anyone. It is such a terrible disease. Dad was still working till age 83 then became increasingly dizzy along with vertigo and then downhill from there with Alzheimers. Never thought he would be like this. I feel dad is not here anymore even though his body is since there are things he does now that were never part of his nature etc.


about 2 years ago

I cling to the possibility of "an injection" of Etanercept or Bexarotene which are drugs already in use in humans which are being trialed for Alzheimers. I pray for the injection of money to speed these trials and enable a LOT of misery for many to disappear! All my finances are taken in the care of my husband. America is contributing hugely as they have a new patient diagnosed every 70 seconds.


about 2 years ago

my mom had the same, dementia. When I was called she didn't know who I was because she had lived in Chicago and I lived in Arizona. Mon would not move so I had to wait. I put her in a hospital and took care of her belongings. Then we flew to Az. I had to put her on hospice care right away. I took care of mom with the help of my children. Mom progressed fast, I would take her out in the car with a wheel chair, but in 3-4 months she was bed riden. It was very hard watching her every day getting worse.Mom passed on the 9 month here just a week before her birthday. With Hospice help she was able to be with family and go peasefully. I also appreciate the help I got from Caring.Com. It helped me get throught the nine months Thanks to everyone who helped me.


about 2 years ago

It's disturbing to hear feedback from people who believe others' (including Cassidy's) behavior or concern or responsibility isn't up to par because it isn't the same as their own. We all vary in the amount of money, time, and emotional investments we can make. Regardless of what we WANT to do, we often simply can't. I feel defensive when people imply (or sometimes come right out and say) that I shouldn't have put Mom in an ALF because they don't know our situation. That we care, that we are caught in the eye of this storm, that we are all losing huge parts of our families and ourselves, should bring us together and not turn us into unfeeling, judgemental dolts.


about 2 years ago

My uncle passed a few years ago, he had Alzheimer's and he went to take a nap and never woke up. I hope one day when its my time I go to sleep and that's it. He lived a full life and he is missed by all who loved him dearly.


about 2 years ago

I am glad that David Cassidy wants to bring awareness to this subject and that he realizes how fortunate he is to have money to help deal with the problem. When my grandmother developed Alzheimer's, I was the one who had to "diagnose" it for my grandfather who was deep in denial. My grandparents had a lot of kids and grandchildren but it was only my own mother and myself who were willing to help. We took care of her from the time when she was losing her memory until she died several years later and I actually arranged to work at home so that she could be cared for. Every week a nurse came to see her and we had a home helper/nursing assistant come in 5 days a week to help with the heavier work once she was bedridden. We rented a hospital bed at that point and put her in the living room so she could still be part of the daily life of the house. I vowed that she would never see the inside of a nursing home and she did not. I am glad David is providing a nurse 24 hours a day to care for his own mother. I didn't want her to die. Just selfish I guess. This is an ugly disease. At first, she was losing things and forgetting things (she buried her wallet out in the garden in the rain) and we had these circular conversations where the same conversation would be repeated endlessly in a loop. She then forgot what day it was, started to try to sweep the kitchen floor from one side to the other for hours on in, refused to take a bath, and moved on to more dangerous things like trying to pull hot pans from the oven with her bare hands and going to pee in the night and turning on all of the stove burners with their covers on! After a while, she got angry and violent and we had to stop her from throwing porcelain dishes or strangling my grandfather with a cord. Once she got away and wandered down the road (I had gone to the store and left my grandfather to watch her). The end was the worse. Bedridden, unable to turn over, in pain due to bedsores that occurred even when she was turned every half hour, she couldn't talk (but she could scream when the bedsores were treated), sit up (she'd slump in a chair), or eat regular food. I had to puree everything and hand feed her. We cared for her gardens and plants and I brought her fresh bouquets to look at and I talked to her endlessly while she followed me with her eyes.


about 2 years ago

My mom was diagnosed in 2007. We went through what I have come to understand is typical behavior changes, unexplained paraonia, hoarding, anger, aggression. We kept her in her home for 3 more years because the one thing that was certain was her ability to navigate her home ... even in the dark. When she no longer recognized her home I made the decision to move her to Assisted and controled living. My mother is my mother but she no longer remembers having children, but she does remember her own childhood and that's where our conversations go but she is no longer capable of coherent speech. I don't know what she believes she does during the day but I do know she believes she is accomplishing something. This is where the "dignity" comes into play I think. She's always glad to see me so she recognizes me as a friendly face - just not one she raised. I've learned to let that part go. If she's happy, if she believes she's been busy, if she enjoys eating and sleeps well - these are the things that are important to me now. Mom still walks and its been a struggle to keep care providers encouraging this because it becomes easier to have her in a wheel chair and she still feeds herself when it has become easier to spoon feed her. I make sure all of her cothes are in matched sets so she always looks nice, her hair is done daily so she always feels special attention. My brother and I try to celebrate the moments as opposed to one of her children that continually predicts her demise from this "slow death". Our mom is physically healthy, taking minimal medications and so we focus on the good things. I was appointed her guardian in 2008 and without being disrespectful, I believe if I can provide her now - what she gave me as a child, than I will have done the best thing possible. For mom, an environment without fear, with common comforts, with attention and praise and with someone willing to listen to otherwise nonsensical conversations, good food and restful sleep. I would not wish this on anyone but should it come to to any family - it's not easy but then raising me wasn't either. It's a journey of life and from my perspective a journey I will always be grateful to have made with my mom.


Anonymous said about 2 years ago

The pain in the butt managing editor (MOI) is BACK with more complete research about Cassidy and his involvement with his mother and his dedication to the cause. First, there was another managing editor in the original article in the UK, and that one let go the slanted "oh too bad" tragic slant, which the above writer picked up on. I believe this was intended as an entertainment article, as he has a tour happening there...and "oh dear," there's a human side, this Alzheimer's thing. Cassidy is now heavily involved in speaking about Alzheimer's. He did a game show celebrity guest appearance where he donated his winnings to Alzheimer's research. He will be keynote speaker at an Alzheimer's Foundation conference. He writes about Alzheimer's on the blog on his website. So he is IN the game of the disease, but perhaps not IN the game of being with his mother to the degree we are. In the UK article, he stated that years ago he offered to move his mother across country to be near his home, and she wanted to stay put. These sorts of celebrity spokesmen "activists" usually grow into their roles. He will be coached, he will see and learn, he will hear caregiver stories, he will visit dementia units and tour nursing homes. But also, the writers and editors have to know their stuff and stretch to get the story out of him. <br> HOW DOES ONE ENTER A REAL PARAGRAPH BREAK?


Anonymous said about 2 years ago

I combine the two above comments regarding David Cassidy. Well, first I give anyone a break for not coming out and revealing news of a medical condition that is not their own. His mother has now no ability to give permission. There are other family members to consider, and knowing that as soon as Cassidy does break the ice, it means for him the sort of pressure we are putting on him. Be a role model....which so far, he ain't. These final paragraphs point to that his mother's condition is STILL all about HIM...(a phase most of us go through... and grow beyond): "Two years ago, she underwent a rapid decline. Although she still recognizes him, she can no longer walk or talk. " 'It would be wrong to say I wish my mother would pass,' he says, 'but I wish my mother would pass with dignity. It's so painful seeing her like this. It's such a cruel and debilitating disease.' " Wake up Mr. C., the dignity comes from YOU and your family and the staff and friends. She is to be HELD in dignity, respect, reverence... My mother...I have NO idea if she "knows" me or not. My job, now nightly at nursing home after 9.5 years of solo caregiving, is to deliver as much love, attention, and DEEP meaning as I can. To see where the nursing home refuses to plug the gaps that make for a human(s) experience. Also to allow her my mother her own expression of emotions, and that includes witnessing "abject misery." I let her know she is right to feel this way, I'd be miserable also. But we work as a team to make the best of this situation, just as we did at home. Putting on my feature writer/managing editor hat...I wondered who wrote this piece...and WHO allowed it to be published in this form...this shallow pity piece? Where was the managing editor?? Oh dear...a senior editor...hmmm. Well....how to put this. I see the piece was put together, gleaned from other sources, no original interview. Without face-to-face, or chat-to-chat, a writer can not clarify, illuminate and probe. Writer/therapist/storyteller/activist...Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She has strong daily involved presence on Facebook, and occasionally writes about her INTERACTIONS with the homeless street people she encounters. I know she does not write about the REAL activists she corresponds with, those who are fleeing their homeland, dodging bullets. etc. "Put skin in the game." The people who comment here on Caring.com ARE (like it or not) skin-in-the-game. I am looking at the adorable parade of images below to select articles to read...chocolate, almonds, spices, coffee. Anti-aging tips. OOOO, spices. Ten great movies...CONTENT!!


about 2 years ago

We all have our stories. Aside from caring for the person who has this disease, and taking care of ourselves we must find time in our busy lives to take action and make sure that research is done on this disease.


about 2 years ago

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007. Her disease seemed to happen overnight. One day she started having hallucinations and she was dillusional. It was scary. She became very aggressive. My dad was very quiet about the whole thing. She would lash out at him. A year later she was admitted into the hospital with a broken wrist after a fall. Suddenly she was unable to walk. All this happened when my sister (who lived with my parents) had taken ill. Both my mom and sister were in the same hospital, same floor, only a few doors from each other. My sister wanted to see my mom, but couldn't because she was in isolation. When my mom was released, I had to place her in a convalescent hospital. That was the worst day of my life, but I couldn't take care of my mom and dad at the same time. My sister passed in 2008. My mom never left the convalescent hospital. She always knew who I was, but no one else. I would take my dad to see her often. I now was taking care of my dad in his. He is declining now. But then again he will be 100 in July. He has dementia and is legally blind. I will not move him out of his home because he knows it like the back of his hand. At the beginning, I was with him 7 days a week. I have a husband that is so supportive, but I was exhausted. I needed help. I was the only one doing this even though I have a brother. My husband and me have changed our whole lives to take care of him. Time came when I couldn't take to see mom. It was hard getting him there. My mom passed in 2010. It actually was a blessing for her. I miss her very much, but now my energy is taking care of my dad. I will keep him home as long as possible. I now have help. I found a live in caregiver who stays with him 4 days and I stay 3 days. It has been a difficult journey but I will continue caring for him as long as I can. The disease is terrible. To see your loved one decline in this way is horrific. Both my parents were vital and full of energy. I love them very much.


about 2 years ago

I appreciated the post. The discovery of his mother's dementia was so similar to the way my mother's dementia happened. I have taken care of my mother for over 7 years. There were the tell-tale signs of dementia, but the level of care I provided kept evolving slowly and continually until no one realized how much she had deteriorated mentally. The wake up call came when we tried to place her into an a very nice and active assisted living facility to be around other seniors. She couldn't figure out how to use the elevator, could not find her way to the dining room (even after weeks of help from "ambassadors"). We finally took her back into our own home for a while, but the wandering, rummaging through things, food hiding (and spoiling in her room) was too much. We tried another ALF geared more toward folks with dementia - it even had a dementia ward, but they were continually understaffed. I ended up supplementing the care she received, and was at the ALF every single day. Then came the fall in the bathroom at 5:00 in the morning at the ALF. She hit her head and has never been the same afterward. That same week, I found a small 5-bed ALF in the neighborhood next to my own, and moved her there. It is a privately run facility, not a big corporate unit. The care she receives is exceptional - she is treated like family. It's been a rough road for her - many embarrassing and frustrating moments that I wish I could make go away for her. Mom is receiving Hospice care for advanced dementia. Like David Cassidy said, when the time comes, I hope she will die with dignity. All we can really do for our loved ones is be there for them. We shouldn't expect anything from them at this point - it's time to give them everything we can - unconditional love, comfort, dignity, and acceptance of them just the way they are. I wish all of you peace and God's blessings. :)


about 2 years ago

I'm nt sure why the email subject line for this read "David Cassidy's Mansion", but I suppose more people would click to read about his mansion than might click to read about his mother who has dementia. That's unfortunate, because the reality is that dementia will likely be much more important to most people at some point in their lives than will David Cassidy's mansion. I am glad to hear that he is speaking publicly about this and able to provide good care for her, but if she's been in a nursing home for seven years, where has his voice been before now? This stigma has got to be overcome!


Default_avatar-hhd399496100
Stay Connected With Caring.com

Receive the latest news and tips in your inbox

Join our social communities:

Best in Health News
Msn-health-header-hh279de61871