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For the first time since Bruce Willis’ frontotemporal dementia diagnosis, his wife, Emma Heming Willis, is publicly sharing updates on his health and how the actor’s recent diagnosis has impacted Heming Willis and their children.
Heming Willis spoke exclusively with “Today” show co-anchor Hoda Kotb in honor of World Frontotemporal Dementia Awareness Week. They were joined by Susan Dickinson, CEO of the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.
In February, Willis’ family announced that the actor’s condition progressed to frontotemporal dementia, also known as FTD. The “Die Hard” star chose to step away from acting in March 2022 due to an aphasia diagnosis.
The mother of two shared an update on Willis’ condition and its impact on the family, noting that she wants to raise awareness for all forms of dementia and what it is like caring for family members with this condition.
“Dementia is hard,” Heming Willis said on “Today.” “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. When they say this is a family disease, it really is.”
Heming Willis says it is unclear if Willis is aware of his disease.
“It’s hard to know,” she said, per “Today.”
“One of the things that the frontal lobe controls is self insight,” Dickinson added. “Some people, it’s the first thing they lose, is any understanding that they themselves have changed.”
Introducing Willis’ diagnosis to his two young daughters, Mabel, 11 and Evelyn, 9, was “important” and came naturally in their “honest and open household,” explains Heming Willis.
“When you know what the disease is from a medical standpoint it sort of all makes sense,” Heming Willis explained during her interview with “Today.” “So it was important that we let them know what it is because I don’t want there to be any stigma or shame attached to their dad’s diagnosis or for any form of dementia.”
She also said her husband is “the gift that keeps on giving.” His condition has taught their two daughters “love, patience and resilience.”
“It’s teaching them so much and how to care and love, and it’s really a beautiful thing amongst the sadness,” Heming Willis said, per “Today.”
Bruce Willis’ health diagnosis
Following his March 2022 diagnosis with aphasia, Willis retired from acting and remained out of the spotlight.
An update on his condition came in February, when Willis’ family revealed his condition progressed to frontotemporal dementia, which his family called a “cruel disease.”
“As a family, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for the outpouring of love and compassion for Bruce over the past 10 months,” the statement read. “For your kindness, and because we know you love Bruce as much as we do, we wanted to give you an update.”
“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),” the statement 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.”
The statement was signed by Bruce’s wife, his ex-wife Demi Moore, and his five daughters: Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia is the most common form of dementia in people under 60, but it can also affect people older than 60, according to The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.
“It can affect speech, behaviors, personality and what we call executive functioning,” Dickinson said during her time on “Today.”
“What we’re really talking about is unexplained changes in how a person is in the world. So, somebody who normally speaks absolutely fine has trouble putting their thoughts into meaningful sentences, or they may lose the meaning of a specific word,” Dickinson continued.
Despite the challenges of Willis’ condition, Heming Willis assured viewers there are still “beautiful things” in their lives.
“There are so many beautiful things happening in our lives, its just really important for me to look up from the grief and the sadness so I can see what is happening around us and Bruce would really want us to be in the joy of what is,” said Heming Willis, per “Today.” “He would really want that for me and our family.”