Bruce Willis' Family Just Gave a Heartbreaking Update on His Condition and Prognosis
The beloved actor has been given a new diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.
Nearly one year after announcing that he was suffering from aphasia—a cognitive condition that robs its victims of their ability to speak and understand clearly—Bruce Willis' family is sharing an important update with his fans. The TV-turned-movie star, father of five, and sometimes-musician (he still plays a mean harmonica, as demonstrated by this Instagram reel shared by wife Emma Heming Willis) has been diagnosed with a common form of dementia, according to a statement signed by Emma, Bruce's former wife Demi Moore, and his daughters: Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, and Evelyn.
"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 ten months," they wrote. "Your generosity of spirit has been overwhelming, and we are tremendously grateful for it. For your kindness, and because we know you love Bruce as much as we do, we wanted to give you an update."
Read on to find out about Willis' new diagnosis, what the symptoms are, and what his prognosis is.
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Willis' family says he's now been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.
"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 Willis family statement reads. "While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis."
Dementia is largely associated with Alzheimer's disease, but in fact, Alzheimer's is simply the most common cause of dementia, the Alzheimer's Association says, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. The organization explains that rather than being a disease in itself, dementia is a term that encompasses a range of different conditions that impact cognitive function.
Of these, FTD is more common among younger people, per the Mayo Clinic, often striking people between the ages of 40 and 65. (Willis is now 67.)
"FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone," the Willis statement says. "For people under 60, FTD is the most common form of dementia, and because getting the diagnosis can take years, FTD is likely much more prevalent than we know."
Trouble speaking is "just one symptom" of FTD.
While Willis' previous diagnosis of aphasia focused on the ability to speak and understand others' speech, this new diagnosis comes with larger implications. "Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces," his family shared.
While his family did not offer specifics regarding Willis' struggles, the Mayo Clinic says that FTP can cause "dramatic" shifts in personality, and that sufferers may behave in inappropriate ways, seem indifferent to other people's emotions, act impulsively, and lose their "ability to use language properly."
Those with FTP often have multiple symptoms, which get worse over time. Other symptoms may include lack of judgment, changes in eating habits (usually overeating), compulsive behaviors like lip-smacking or clapping, increasingly poor hygiene, and lack of inhibition, the clinic notes.
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FTD has no treatment or cure.
Sadly, the prognosis for Willis is not encouraging. Most forms of dementia have no cure, the Alzheimer's Association says, and that includes FTP. And unfortunately, no effective treatment has been found to help slow the disease's progression.
"Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead," the Willis family statement explains. "As Bruce's condition advances, we hope that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research."
The Mayo Clinic also notes that besides having a family history of dementia, there are no known risk factors for FTP.
His family says this is how Willis would respond, if he could.
"Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately," his family writes. "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."
The actor, who has long been known for his charm and wit, "has always found joy in life—and has helped everyone he knows to do the same," the statement says, noting that it's been meaningful to them "to see that sense of care echoed back to him and to all of us."
They end the update by asking for "continued compassion, understanding, and respect," so that they may "help Bruce live as full a life as possible."