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Bruce Willis' debilitating ongoing health battle explained

The Die Hard actor has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

Bruce Willis attends the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis at Hollywood Palladium on July 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)© Rich Fury
Jenni McKnight
US Lifestyle Editor
Updated: June 14, 2024
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It has been over two years since Bruce Willis was diagnosed with aphasia in 2022, and almost one year later, his family announced the news that his condition had progressed, and he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (known as FTD). 

FTD can cause trouble communicating and difficulty walking, among other conditions, and the family – wife Emma Heming Willis, ex-wife Demi Moore, and his three eldest daughters, Rumer, Tallulah and Scout, confirmed at the time that there had been issues with "communication" for the acting icon.

"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," they said.

Bruce Willis to step away from acting career after aphasia diagnosis

The 68-year-old's family has tried to stay strong throughout his illness, but his wife, Emma, has been open about her struggles to remain positive, and recently became emotional when she spoke about Lorenzo's House, a "start-up designing cost-free holistic care for loved ones and their families navigating younger-onset dementias.".

"I can't talk about Lorenzo's House without getting emotional. Their mission is so beautiful and speaks to me in such a deep way," she told followers, adding: "As I'm on this journey. I'm on our journey. It's still very difficult for me to navigate and talk about and I do so. but I do so when I can do it. When I feel emotionally stable to do it."

In an Instagram video in August 2023 she said: "I have to make a conscious effort every single day to live the best life that I can. I do that for myself. I do that for our two children and Bruce, who would not want me to live any other way." 

Despite his diagnosis, the actor still appears to be in good spirits and was pictured on Father's Day 2023 meeting his grandchild, Louetta, the daughter of his eldest child, Rumer

Bruce Willis with daughter Rumer and granddaughter Louetta in a photo shared on Instagram© Instagram
Bruce with daughter Rumer and granddaughter Louetta

Paying tribute to her dad, Rumer penned: "Seeing my father hold my daughter today was something I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

"His sweetness and love for her was so pure and beautiful. Papa, I'm so lucky to have you and so is Lou. Thank you for being the silliest, most loving, coolest Daddio a girl could ask for. Best Girl Dad in the game….'" 

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's blended family© Instagram
Bruce with his family

What is wrong with Bruce Willis?

 In February 2023, Bruce's wife, his ex-wife Demi Moore, and their three daughters Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah, shared the difficult news that Bruce's health is declining. The five women explained in a joint Instagram post that the actor's aphasia diagnosis has sadly progressed into frontotemporal dementia, known as FTD. 

Sharing a photo of Bruce at the beach, the statement read: "Our family wanted to start by expressing our deepest gratitude for the incredible outpouring of love, support and wonderful stories we have all received since sharing Bruce’s original diagnosis. 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. 

"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." 

Emma Heming Willis and Bruce Willis smiling which being photo'd at a red carpet event © Getty Images
Emma Heming Willis and Bruce Willis

The post directed their Instagram followers to a link which led to an expanded statement on The Association for Frontotemporal Dementia. Giving further details into what Bruce's condition is like, the statement read: "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 explained that unfortunately there are no treatments for the disease, though they hope sharing the news publicly will shed light on it and bring further awareness and research. 

They said: "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." 

ruce Willis attends the 17th Annual A Great Night In Harlem at The Apollo Theater on April 04, 2019 in New York City
Bruce retired from acting after his aphasia diagnosis

What is frontotemporal dementia (FTD)? 

According to Alzheimer's Association, FTD refers to a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain's frontal lobes or its temporal lobes. The nerve cell damage caused by frontotemporal dementia leads to loss of function in these brain regions, which variably causes deterioration in behavior, personality, and/or difficulty with producing or comprehending language. 

Symptoms of FTD start gradually and progress steadily, and often include dramatic behavioral changes such as swearing, impaired judgment, emotional withdrawal from others, loss of energy, and less frequent speech. There are no specific treatments for FTD, which gets worse over time, with the speed of decline differing from person to person. 

When did Bruce Willis' health battle start?

Rumer Willis, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Scout Willis, Emma Heming Willis and Tallulah Willis attend Demi Moore's 'Inside Out' Book Party on September 23, 2019© Getty
Bruce's family has kept his fans updated on his condition

In March 2022, Bruce's family announced that he will retire from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia, a disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension, meaning a person is unable to communicate effectively with others. 

In a statement Demi shared that had been co-signed by the entire family, she wrote: "To Bruce's amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities." 

She continued: "As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him. This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. 

Bruce Willis with his grand daughter© Instagram
Bruce Willis with his granddaughter

"We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him. As Bruce always says, 'Live it up' and together we plan to do just that. Love, Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, & Evelyn." 

In May 2023, Bruce's daughter, Tallulah wrote in an essay for Vogue that his frontotemporal dementia "chips away at his cognition and behavior day by day".

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