Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, his family confirmed Thursday.
Nearly a year after announcing his battle with aphasia, the actor’s family, including ex-wife Demi Moore, current wife Emma Heming and his five daughters, shared a health update in a statement on the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration website.
“While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis,” the family said, noting that Willis’ condition has worsened in the past year.
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“FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone. 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,” they continued.
Willis, 67, retired from acting in March of 2022. His family explained at the time that Willis was “experiencing some health issues … which are impacting his cognitive abilities.”
On Thursday, they explained that the FTD is affecting Willis’ communication skills.
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According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, FTD is an umbrella term for a group of rare disorders that most often affect the parts of the brain associated with personality and behaviour.
Approximately 5 to 10 per cent of all dementia cases are FTD, but it makes up about 20 per cent of all young onset dementia diagnosed in those under 65.
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The Alzheimer Society says that FTD can cause behaviour changes, difficulty with speech and movement, and memory loss.
Unlike in Alzheimer’s disease, however, people with frontotemporal dementia often remain conscious of time (for example, what year it is) and memory is not of concern in the early stages.
In the later stages, general symptoms of dementia can arise, including confusion and forgetfulness. Motor skills are lost and swallowing difficulties occur.
While there are no treatments for the disease, the Willis family says it’s “a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead.”
“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.”
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