Emma Heming Willis, Bruce Willis’s wife, has provided an update on her husband’s health, saying that it is “hard to know” whether the actor is aware that he has frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Heming Willis spoke out about the diagnosis’s impact on her family in an interview with Hoda Kotb on NBC’s Today program on Monday.
“What I’m learning is that dementia is hard. It’s hard on the person diagnosed. It’s also hard on the family. And that is no different for Bruce or myself or our girls,” she further explains “And when they say that this is a family disease, it really is.”
In response to Kotb’s inquiry as to whether or not her husband was aware of his situation, Heming Willis said, “Hard to know.”
Heming Willis and Susan Dickinson, the president and chief executive officer of the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, went on the program to bring attention to FTD.
According to Dickinson, one of the symptoms of this illness is a loss of self-awareness; thus, affected individuals may fail to recognize that they have evolved.
Kotb likewise inquired as to how Heming Willis was feeling after hearing the news.
She said, “I think it was the blessing and the curse,” describing how knowing what is happening to him is beneficial but also tricky.
“Just being in the know of what is happening to Bruce just makes it a little bit easier,” she said.
Their two children, Mabel and Evelyn, were told everything that was going on because “we’re a very honest and open household,” she claimed. “And, you know, the most important thing was to be able for us to say what the disease was, to explain what it is,” the author continues, “because when you know what the disease is from a medical standpoint, it sort of all makes sense.”
Heming Willis emphasized, “So it was important that we let them know what it is because, you know, I don’t want there to be any stigma or shame attached to their dad’s diagnosis, or for any form of dementia.”
She ended on an upbeat note as well.
“He is the gift that keeps on giving,” she gushed about her spouse. “Love, patience, resilience, so much.”
She said that Bruce’s wishes for her and her family included finding happiness in the present moment.
After retiring from acting in March 2022 because of aphasia, Willis’ family disclosed in February this year that he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.
“Since we announced Bruce’s diagnosis of aphasia in spring 2022, Bruce’s condition has progressed,” the Willis family stated in a statement. “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.”
Tau and other cell-destructive proteins accumulate in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, causing the degenerative disease known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The average onset age for Alzheimer’s disease is between 45 and 64 years old, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration has released a statement stating that FTD is “the most common dementia for people under 60” and that it may lead to difficulties with communication in addition to changes in one’s behavior, personality, or physical coordination.
According to the US National Institute on Aging, the average lifespan of a person with FTD is between six and eight years. The hereditary prevalence of FTD is estimated at 10% to 30%. Researchers are looking at the possible roles of the thyroid and insulin in the development of the condition, but so far only genetics has been identified as a risk factor.