Ignore it and carry on: Tony Christie on dealing with dementia diagnosis

The singer is best known for his 1971 hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo.
The singer is best known for his 1971 hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo.

Tony Christie has spoken of his positive approach to being diagnosed with dementia, saying: “If you start worrying about it, you’re finished. Ignore it, carry on and do what you do.”

The 79-year-old, whose real name is Anthony Fitzgerald, is best known for his 1971 hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Christie said: “I’ve always been, for 50 years, a fanatic at doing crosswords and things, and suddenly I started finding it very hard.

“So I said to my wife… I used to go through two or three crosswords a day, and suddenly I said ‘What’s happened to me? I don’t know what’s happening’.

“So she said ‘Well, let’s go and get checked’, and they said ‘You’ve got the oncoming of dementia’.”

Christie, originally from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, said he has adopted a positive and direct approach since the diagnosis.

“I ignored it. I just said ‘Carry on’ – and I just did carry on, and worked,” he said.

“The main thing was, and why I’ve come out about it, is a lot of people I’ve met and who have got it, they’re worried about it.

“And I’m not worried about it. I went to specialists and they gave me tablets and they’ve gradually worked.”

Dementia is most commonly associated with memory loss but can also affect the way that people speak, think, feel and behave, according to the NHS.

Christie also said he is hopeful that a cure for the debilitating disease is not too far away, adding: “And I’ve got a feeling that, within a few years, there will be tablets that will cure it. So I just carry on working.”

Despite his diagnosis Christie is continuing to work. Having released his latest album, Essential Tony Christie, in November, he is also set to perform a special show in celebration of his forthcoming 80th birthday.

He said: “I’m starting a big, big tour this year. It’s going to be very busy but I’m looking forward to it.

“And music, actually, I found out is part of a cure for dementia, so every time I go on stage and work it’s helping me.”

Speaking about how he has adapted to continue working following his diagnosis, he said: “It did start about two years ago when I thought ‘I’m forgetting a few of my lyrics’.

“But, don’t forget, I’ve been singing for 60 years or whatever, and I’ve got an album out! It’s 70 songs, triple album, going back to 1967 – a lot of songs.

“And, to remember them, I have a TV screen on stage as a remembrance – I don’t always look at it – in case I suddenly think ‘What are the words?’ But most of the time it’s there like insurance. But I manage to get through my shows, it’s great.”

Asked what advice he would give others who are suffering from dementia, Christie remained upbeat, saying: “If you start worrying about it, you’re finished.

“Ignore it, carry on and do what you do, and that’s what I advise to anybody who’s got it.

“Don’t panic about it.”