Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, his wife Emma Heming Willis revealed on Thursday.
Heming Willis, 44, shared a photo of her the actor, 67, on Instagram, and said that his condition has worsened since the family first revealed his aphasia diagnosis last year.
“Our family wanted to start by expressing our deepest gratitude for the incredible outpouring of love, support and wonderful stories we have all received since sharing Bruce’s original diagnosis,” Emma wrote. “In the spirit of that, we wanted to give you an update about our beloved husband, father and friend since we now have a deeper understanding of what he is experiencing.”
“Since we announced Bruce’s diagnosis of aphasia in spring 2022, Bruce’s condition has progressed and we now have a more specific diagnosis: frontotemporal dementia (known as FTD),” she continued. “Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.”
Frontotemporal dementia is an all-encompassing term for a group of brain disorders that threatens the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This means that parts of these lobes atrophy, and the shrinking of these areas can cause speech issues, emotional problems and changes in personality.
Other symptoms can include loss of motor skills — problems walking, swallowing or muscle spasms. Symptoms tend to get worse over time. Patients typically begin to notice symptoms between 40 – 65 years of age, but it can affect people who are younger. It is the most common form of dementia for people under 60.
Emma continued, “Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately,” she said. “We know in our hearts that – if he could today — he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families.”
“Bruce has always found joy in life – and has helped everyone he knows to do the same,” she ended. “It has meant the world to see that sense of care echoed back to him and to all of us. We have been so moved by the love you have all shared for our dear husband, father, and friend during this difficult time. Your continued compassion, understanding, and respect will enable us to help Bruce live as full a life as possible.”
The Die Hard star’s family shared the news of his aphasia diagnosis in March 2022, writing alongside a photo of the actor on their Instagram feeds, “To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities.”
“As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” the caption added.
They went on to say that it “is a really challenging time” for them all, “and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support.”
“We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him. As Bruce always says, ‘Live it up’ and together we plan to do just that,” they concluded, signing the note from Emma, Mabel and Evelyn, plus Bruce’s ex-wife Demi Moore and their daughters Rumer Willis, Scout Willis and Tallulah Willis.
According to Mayo Clinic, aphasia “is a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. It can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written.”
The group adds that the condition “typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative).”
People with aphasia experience changes in their ability to communicate, the Mayo Clinic says, and they “may speak in short or incomplete sentences, speak in sentences that don’t make sense, substitute one word for another or one sound for another, speak unrecognizable words, not understand other people’s conversation or write sentences that don’t make sense.”