Two weeks ago, David Cassidy was performing with his band during a concert in Agoura Hills, California, when he suddenly couldn't remember the words to songs he'd been singing for years. Fans speculated that the 66-year-old singer might have had a little too much to drink (he had struggled with alcohol addiction in the past), but a few days later, Cassidy came out with the truth: He has been diagnosed with dementia.
In an emotional March 1 appearance on Dr. Phil's TV show, Cassidy opened up about his dementia diagnosis. He learned that he had the disorder about two and a half years ago, he said, but it was his forgetfulness around loved ones that first clued him in to the fact that something might be wrong.
"When friends of yours or family members begin to say to you, 'Remember, I just told you this two days ago,' and there's no memory of it… that's when I began to be very concerned," he explained.
Although Cassidy's long-term memory hasn't yet been affected by the disorder (he can still "remember details of automobiles I drove in in 1967," he said), his short-term memory has been clearly deteriorating. And because he had watched his mother — he was her caregiver for the last seven years of her life — and grandfather live with dementia, he knew the effect the disorder can have on family members and that he needed to have a tough conversation with his son about his diagnosis.
"I always said to my friends and to my son, 'If you ever see me get to the place that my mother has become' — I said, 'If you ever see me like this, I want you to promise me you'll find a way to let me go, and don't let me live like that, please,'" he told Dr. Phil while holding back tears.
The singer and actor went on to tell Dr. Phil that he has decided to stop performing — he wants to avoid the travel, stress, and criticism that comes with touring in an effort to work on his health.
In the end, though, Cassidy wanted to send one important message to his fans: "I'm really OK," he said. "There are a lot of things that I can do, both health-wise — brain-wise — and to continue to do the things that I love to do, that inspire me."