Bruce Willis: Charities 'hugely thankful' to actor for sharing dementia diagnosis

Charities have thanked Bruce Willis for sharing his dementia diagnosis as they hope it raises further awareness for the condition

Actor Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, his family has announced.

UK charities have said they are “hugely thankful” to the star for publicly sharing his diagnosis, and hope his openess will help raise awareness of the rare condition.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Kate Lee said: “We’re sending our thoughts to Bruce Willis and his family following their announcement that Bruce is living with frontotemporal dementia.

“Speaking publicly about his diagnosis will help so much to shine further light on the condition, for which we are hugely thankful.”

A spokesperson for Dementia UK said: “We’re sorry to hear that Bruce has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

“By choosing to speak publicly about his diagnosis, more awareness can be raised about FTD and hopefully it will encourage others to seek advice if they are experiencing concerns about their brain health.”

Bruce Willis, pictured here in 2004, is known for all-action roles in films. Credit: PA

The 67-year-old of Die Hard fame, who is now retired from acting, had previously been diagnosed with aphasia, a condition affecting his cognitive abilities.

In an update on social media on Thursday, Willis’ family expressed their "deepest gratitude" for the "outpouring of love" they had received since the announcement.

"In the spirit of that, we wanted to give you an update about our beloved husband, father and friend since we now have a deeper understanding of what he is experiencing," the statement wrote.

"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].

"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."

According to the NHS, frontotemporal dementia is an “uncommon” form of the disease that causes the sufferer problems with behaviour and language, and mostly affects those between the ages of 45 and 65.

Willis’ family further explained the condition in an extended statement on the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration website in which they acknowledged frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a “cruel disease” and “can strike anyone”.

The family added that they hoped media attention on the actor’s condition would raise awareness. “FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone,” their statement read.

“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.

“Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead.

“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.”

Bruce Willis, pictures here with Helen Mirren, had previously been diagnosed with aphasia. Credit: PA

They added: “Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately.

“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 statement was signed from members of Willis’ family including his wife Emma Heming, former wife Demi Moore and his five daughters.

He shares his three eldest – Rumer, Scout and Tallulah – with Moore whom he married in 1987. Despite separating in 2000, the pair remain on amicable terms.

Willis went on to marry actress Heming in 2009. The pair share two daughters, Mabel and Evelyn.

Willis has starred in hit films including the Die Hard series, Pulp Fiction, Armageddon, Moonrise Kingdom, 12 Monkeys and Looper.

Over the course of his career, Willis has been highly commended for many performances, receiving multiple award nominations including five Golden Globes, of which he won one, and three Primetime Emmys, of which he won two.

In 2006, he was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in Los Angeles.

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia

Following Willis' diagnosis, frontotemporal dementia has been brought to the forefront of people's attention.

This 'uncommon' form of dementia tends to target younger people, with cases recorded in people as young as 45 years old.

There are many symptoms of the condition and the NHS advises you visit a GP if you are suffering from any of the below:

  • 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

  • Physical problems - such as slow or stiff movements, loss of bladder or bowel control (usually not until later on), muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing.

To learn more, visit the NHS website.

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