Skip to content

The Troubling Symptoms That Led to Wendy Williams' Dementia Diagnosis

The beloved talk show host showed a few telltale signs ahead of her formal diagnosis.

On Feb. 22, the care team of Wendy Williams announced in a press release that the daytime talk show host was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) last year. This news comes days ahead of the planned release of the two-part Lifetime documentary Where Is Wendy Williams?, which features Williams herself, though Deadline reported on Feb. 23 that her guardian filed a sealed lawsuit against Lifetime's parent company A&E Networks, most likely to block it from airing. (Deadline notes that A&E Networks filed an appeal.)

From 2008 to 2021, the 59-year-old hosted The Wendy Williams Show. The production company behind the show announced that in 2022 that it would no longer go forward amid Williams' various health issues, as reported by the Associated Press. The press release about her aphasia and dementia diagnoses also confirms that the TV personality has also been dealing with Graves' disease and lymphedema. Additionally, her family explained to People that they've become increasingly concerned about her alcohol addiction in recent years. Her niece Alex Finnie told CNN that the 59-year-old is currently in an inpatient treatment facility for cognitive care.

This new information about Williams' health sheds new light on some of her struggles that have played out in the press, including reports regarding her finances and her behavior. Read on for the dementia and aphasia symptoms the host's care team say she exhibited before she was officially diagnosed.

RELATED: Sinbad's Family Reveals Heartbreaking Details About the Stroke That Left Him in a Coma.

Loss of words

Wendy Williams in 2019
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

"Unfortunately, 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 press release from Williams' team reads.

According to Cleveland Clinic, people with FTD belong to one of three common symptom groups, two of which are subtypes of PPA—the specific aphasia disorder Williams has.

One of the symptoms Williams displayed was loss of words, which can be an indicator of PPA. Like other forms of aphasia, PPA can lead to trouble understanding both written and spoken language, leaving people unable "to find the right word to use in speech," per Mayo Clinic.

In addition, FTD can lead to trouble naming things, no longer knowing words or meanings, hesitant speech, and mistakes when forming sentences.

Fans noticed that Williams would occasionally seem confused on her show, using the incorrect word for something, losing her place, and slurring her speech. These could all be seen as warning signs of PPA.

RELATED: Bruce Willis Has "More Bad Days Than Good," Source Reveals in Heartbreaking Update.

Difficulty understanding information

Wendy Williams with Walk of Fame star in 2019

Another common sign of FTD is related to comprehension. Williams' team specifically named "difficulty understanding financial transactions" as a symptom in their release.

In 2022, Wells Fargo froze Williams' accounts and made them inaccessible to her after her former financial advisor claimed that she "was of unsound mind," as reported by People. "Wells Fargo has strong reason to believe that [Williams] is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation," the bank said in court documents after Williams filed to have her accounts restored, though they didn't name who they believed responsible. The court appointed a financial guardian to the talk show host in May of that year, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Her niece Finnie told CNN that Williams also had trouble grasping the fact that her show had been canceled.

"I got serious, and I said, 'I want to really explain something to you so that you can get this. There's no more Wendy Williams Show. They decided to cancel it. After so many fabulous seasons, this curtain has come down,'" Finnie explained.

She said that Williams look confused and responded, "What are you talking about? Of course, I have the show."

Finnie said it took some convincing and "conversations with the powers that be" for the star to understand what was happening.

According to, in addition to the frontal lobe, FTD also affects the temporal lobe, which can lead to disorders of language and emotion. PPA specifically impacts people's ability to understand what others are saying and/or what they're reading and writing.

Acting erratically

wendy williams in the documentary "Where Is Wendy Williams?"

Williams' team also pointed to erratic behavior as another sign.

According to Mayo Clinic, behavioral and emotional changes are the most common symptoms of FTD. These can include inappropriate social behavior, loss of empathy and interpersonal skills, lack of judgment, apathy, and compulsive behaviors.

The host made headlines for behaving strangely on her show and in other appearances. During a 2020 episode, according to The Wrap, she apologized to her audience by saying, ""I always say I love you for watching because I really, really do. I come here every day and I try to do the best that I can for you. I appreciate you watching, but even after all of these years, it's still work and effort put in for the hour that I'm out here with you, you know? I guess every day is not perfect, but I'm not a perfectionist. I'm not perfect."

RELATED: Taye Diggs Shares Battle With This Debilitating Condition in Exclusive Interview.

There are several other symptoms of FTD.

older man holding wrist and a glass of water demonstrating parkinson's tremor
Astrid Gast/Shutterstock

Williams' care team clarified that they shared news of her diagnosis "to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy" and "to correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health," as well as to bring awareness to aphasia and FTD.

And while Williams' symptoms are common indicators, they aren't the only signs of this form of dementia. According to Mayo Clinic, FTD can also cause movement issues similar to those seen in patients with Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

These symptoms include tremor, rigidity, muscle spasms, poor coordination, issues with swallowing, muscle weakness, falls, and inappropriate laughing or crying.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
Filed Under
Sources referenced in this article
  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Source: