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Bruce Willis' wife Emma Heming has shared an emotional update about her husband's dementia, as the condition continues to affect his life.
Heming, 45, revealed in February that the Die Hard star, 68, has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, an uncommon type of dementia that causes issues with behaviour and language.
In an appearance on the Today show on Monday 25 September, Heming opened up about how "hard" it is to watch Willis's illness develop and impact their family.
"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 said. "And when they say that this is a family disease, it really is."
Read more: Bruce Willis’ wife says ‘hard to know’ if actor is aware of his condition in health update (Independent, 2-min read)
When asked by host Hoda Kotb whether Willis was aware of what is happening to him, Heming replied that it is "hard to know".
Heming's update on Willis comes after Alastair Stewart was recently praised for helping to raise awareness of the symptoms of dementia.
The 71-year-old former ITV News presenter revealed that he is living with the condition earlier this month, after a scan revealed he had had a series of minor strokes. He was diagnosed with vascular dementia, which affects around 180,000 people in the UK and means damage has been caused to the blood cells.
Read more: Alastair Stewart: Former ITV News presenter reveals dementia diagnosis at age of 71 (National World, 2-min read)
Former GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips also recently revealed her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and Thor actor Chris Hemsworth shared he has two copies of the APOE4 gene, making him more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain function, according to the NHS. The condition can affect memory, as well as the way you speak, think, feel and behave.
There are many different types, with many different causes, and it is not a natural part of ageing.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK. It is a progressive condition, meaning symptoms develop gradually over many years, slowly becoming more severe.
The exact cause isn't yet fully understood, though factors that can potentially increase your risk include age, a family history, untreated depression and lifestyle factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
The first sign is usually minor memory problems, such as forgetting about recent conversations or events, or forgetting the names of places and objects.
As the condition develops and symptoms become more severe, as listed by the NHS, these include:
confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
difficulty planning or making decisions
problems with speech and language
problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others
hallucinations and delusions
low mood or anxiety
Vascular dementia is a common type of the syndrome, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which often gets worse over time – though it's sometimes possible to slow it down. It can either start suddenly or begin slowly over time.
Symptoms listed by the NHS include:
slowness of thought
difficulty with planning and understanding
problems with concentration
changes to your mood, personality or behaviour
feeling disoriented and confused
difficulty walking and keeping balance
dymptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as problems with memory and language (many people with vascular dementia also have Alzheimer's disease)
This can make daily life increasingly hard for someone with the condition, eventually preventing them from being able to look after themselves.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
DLB, also known as Lewy body dementia, is another common type of dementia. It is caused by the Lewy bodies, which are clumps of protein that appear in the nerve cells of the brain. As it shares symptoms with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, it is often wrongly diagnosed.
Symptoms listed by the NHS include:
problems with understanding, thinking, memory and judgement – this is similar to Alzheimer's disease, although memory may be less affected in people with dementia with Lewy bodies
confusion or sleepiness – this can change over minutes or hours
slow movement, stiff limbs and tremors (uncontrollable shaking)
disturbed sleep, often with violent movements and shouting out
fainting spells, unsteadiness and falls
Generally speaking, frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia. While dementia generally mostly affects people over 65, this type typically starts at a younger age. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 45-65, though it can also present in younger or older people.
Frontotemporal dementia affects the front and sides of the brain, and causes problems with behaviour and language. Similar to other types of dementia, it usually develops slowly and gets gradually worse over a long period of time.
Symptoms listed by the NHS include:
personality and behaviour changes – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, or loss of motivation
language problems – speaking slowly, struggling to make the right sounds when saying a word, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly
problems with mental abilities – getting distracted easily, struggling with planning and organisation
memory problems – these only tend to occur later on, unlike more common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease
As well as mental symptoms, there may be physical ones too, such as slow or stiff movements, loss of bladder or bowel control, muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing. Frontotemporal dementia can also lead to someone being unable to care for themselves.
Young- or early-onset dementia is defined as someone who develops the condition before the age of 65.
Younger people with dementia may also experience a wide range of symptoms, with the overall condition caused by a range of different diseases. However, the support they need might vary, because it might affect them in different ways.
As listed by Alzheimer's Society, these include:
a wider range of diseases cause young-onset dementia
a younger person is much more likely to have a rarer form of dementia
younger people with dementia are less likely to have memory loss as one of their first symptoms.
young-onset dementia is more likely to cause problems with movement, walking, co-ordination or balance.
young-onset dementia is more likely to be inherited (passed on through genes) – this affects up to 10% of younger people with dementia.
many younger people with dementia don’t have any other serious or long-term health conditions.
Younger people living with dementia may also have concerns about how it will affect their family, relationships, finances, daily life, or the risk to future children.
Help with dementia
It's normal for memory to be affected by stress, tiredness, certain illnesses and medicine, but if you're becoming increasingly forgetful (or are experiencing other signs of dementia), particularly if you're over the age of 65, it's important to talk to a GP about it.
To distinguish normal memory loss from memory loss that could be a cause for concern, question whether it's affecting your daily life. If it's worrying you, or someone you know, don't delay in seeking advice.
You can also:
Contact Alzheimer’s Society for support and information by visiting alzheimers.org.uk/memoryloss or calling 0333 150 3456
Use Alzheimer's Society's possible symptoms checklist to help with a medical appointment
Dementia: Read more
What is frontotemporal dementia? Bruce Willis’ daughter discusses her father’s condition – Evening Standard, 5-min read
Chris Hemsworth reveals how increased Alzheimer’s risk has changed his outlook on life – Men's Health, 2-min read
Dementia could be prevented by regular hearing tests in your 30s, experts advise – Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read
Additional reporting SWNS and PA.
Watch: Ed Balls opens up on caring for mother with dementia