Wendy Williams Officially Receives Dementia and Aphasia Diagnoses—Here’s What That Means

Wendy Williams Officially Receives Dementia and Aphasia Diagnoses—Here’s What That Means
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Wendy Williams has officially received a diagnosis about her "cognitive issues." Ahead of the premiere of her new Lifetime documentary, Where is Wendy Williams?, her care team shared that the former talk show host was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in 2023, per a press release.

The news comes just a day after Wendy’s family shared a devastating update about what she's been up to for the past few years. Wendy's niece Alex Finnie admitted that she's seen her aunt "spiral" in an interview with People. "It was shocking and heartbreaking to see her in this state," she told the publication.

But unfortunately, the family hasn't been able to get answers about Wendy's condition. In the documentary (per People), her manager confirms that she entered a treatment facility for "cognitive issues" connected to alcohol use in April 2023. Wendy remains in the facility to this day, and her court-appointed legal guardian (whose identity has not been revealed publicly) is the only person who has constant access to her, Wendy’s family shares.

"The people who love her cannot see her,” Wendy's sister (and Alex's mom) Wanda, 65, tells the outlet. “I think the big [question] is: How the hell did we get here?”

When the crew started filming the documentary in August 2022, it was originally meant to follow Wendy’s comeback as she got ready to launch a new podcast. But filming also captured Wendy dealing with alcohol addiction, as well as other health issues.

In one scene, Wendy asks her driver to take her past the former Wendy Williams Show studio, forgetting that he had just done so. “I don’t know what the hell is going on," her driver says in the film, per People. "I think she’s losing memory. She doesn’t know who I am sometimes.”

The crew stopped filming Wendy in April 2023, the same month she entered the treatment facility.

A trailer for the documentary, which debuts Feb. 24 and 25 on Lifetime, offers fans of the former talk show host a glimpse into her life for the first time in years.

Executive produced by Wendy herself, the two-part special will share updates on her personal and professional life, including the specific health conditions she's dealt with, her reasons for leaving The Wendy Williams Show in 2021, and what's she been through since then.

Watch the trailer for Where is Wendy Williams? below:

While the documentary will likely provide new insight into Wendy's current health situation, here's a look back at what she and her loved ones have shared about her health over the years:

Wendy revealed her Graves’ disease diagnosis in 2018.

The Wendy Williams Show host shared with fans that she was taking a three-week hiatus from her show to deal with Graves’ disease, an immune system disorder that causes the overproduction of thyroid hormones, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Wendy is a true champion and has never missed a day of work. But her health and well-being must be put before all else. Wendy has been openly dealing with her Graves' disease for many years in addition to hyperthyroidism," a publicist for her show told ABC News in 2018. "Yesterday, Wendy's doctor prescribed a necessary three weeks of rest to get her levels and medication in sync.”

Wendy also told PEOPLE in 2018 that she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease 19 years before. “I feel a hundred percent better than I was a few months ago. I had a storm going in my body is the best way I can explain it,” she said. “It came from me neglecting my six-month endocrinology appointment. I have Graves' disease and hyperthyroid. If you have one you don’t necessarily have to have the other, but I have both.” (There are many reasons why someone might have hyperthyroidism, but Graves’ disease is a common cause, per the Mayo Clinic.)

She has also struggled with substance use disorder.

Over the years, Wendy has spoken openly about struggling with alcohol and cocaine use. In 2018, she told ET that she was “a functioning addict.”

"I would report to work on time and I walked in and all of my coworkers, and including my bosses, would know but instead of firing me, you see, I would grab my headphones and arrogantly walk into the studio and dare them fire me because I was making ratings,” she said.

Wendy has sought treatment for drug and alcohol dependence.

She has been to several treatment facilities for drug and alcohol dependence, including a trip in 2022, per Page Six. Wendy’s ex-husband Kevin Hunter also told Page Six that his former wife’s production company did not help in her recovery efforts. “They sat in a meeting with her whole family, including her now-deceased mom, and would not sign off on the recovery efforts that would’ve helped Wendy also get well and live and be sober,” he said. “They basically said, ‘If you don’t stop drinking, you’re going to lose the show.’”

Wendy previously revealed on her show that she was living in a sober house in 2019. “Only Kevin knows about this. Not my parents, nobody. Nobody knew because I look so glamorous out here,” she said, per Page Six. “After I finish my appointments… I am driven by my 24-hour sober coach back to a home that I live in the tri-state [area] with a bunch of smelly boys who have become my family.”

Wendy was given a court-appointed guardian in 2022, but a month later was caught on-camera passed out in a Louis Vuitton store while drunk, per People. She entered a wellness facility for two months in September 2022; however, she took a trip to Los Angeles the following March and insisted on drinking, according to her manager Will Selby in the documentary.

Wendy was admitted to a treatment facility in April 2023 for “cognitive issues” related to alcohol use, her son Kevin Hunter Jr. said in Where is Wendy Williams? She is still there today.

She fractured her shoulder in 2019.

Wendy missed a taping of her show in December 2019 after getting a hairline fracture in her right shoulder, according to PEOPLE. “I’m on the mend, I don’t need an operation,” she said on her show, while wearing a sling. “They tell me I’m very healthy…for a person after 50.”

She has also struggled with lymphedema.

Wendy told TMZ in a 2022 video interview that she has lymphedema, a condition that causes swelling in the arms and legs.

Wendy shared that she can only feel “maybe 5% of my feet” but that she wasn't letting the condition slow her down.

She was diagnosed with aphasia and dementia in 2023.

The talk show host was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia in 2023, according to a Feb. 2024 press release issued by her care team.

“Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behavior and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life,” the press release reads. “Receiving a diagnosis has enabled Wendy to receive the medical care she requires.”

The statement goes on to say that the decision to share Wendy’s diagnosis was “difficult” and made to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy. The disclosure was also meant to raise awareness about the conditions.

Symptoms of aphasia include speaking in short or incomplete sentences, not making sense when you speak, substituting one word for another, having trouble findings words, not understanding other people’s conversation, and not understanding what you read, per the Mayo Clinic. It's caused by brain damage from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, tumor, infection, or other degenerative process. Aphasia can be treated if the condition that causes it is healed, along with speech and language therapy.

Frontotemporal dementia symptoms can include trouble planning and sequencing things, difficulty prioritizing tasks, repeating the same activity or saying the same word over and over again, acting impulsively, and becoming disoriented during activities a patient used to care about, according to the National Institute on Aging. Unfortunately, there is no cure.(You might also recognize aphasia and frontemporal dementia as the conditions Bruce Willis has.)

“Many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioral changes but have not yet received a diagnosis,” the statement released by Wendy's care team reads.

The team also notes that Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. “Most importantly, she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed,” the statement says. “She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way.”

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