Alzheimer's / Dementia

2/17/2023 | By Annie Tobey

The news of actor Bruce Willis’s diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) has brought new attention to this degenerative disorder.

The family of Bruce Willis released a statement on Feb. 16, 2023, sharing the actor’s recent medical diagnosis. The family initially announced in spring 2022 that he had been diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder that leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others. The condition continued to progress, and now doctors have diagnosed him with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

“Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or frontotemporal degeneration refers to a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes (the areas behind your forehead) or its temporal lobes (the regions behind your ears),” explains the Alzheimer’s Association.

According to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, FTD is the most common dementia for people under 60. In addition to communication challenges, it can also cause changes to a person’s behavior, personality, or movement, with new symptoms emerging as the disease progresses. “There are currently no treatments that slow or stop FTD,” says the Association. “There is no cure, and no way to prevent its onset. Average life expectancy is 7 to 13 years after the start of symptoms.”

Bruce Willis, Oct. 16, 2006

“FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone,” the family statement said. “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, born in West Germany on March 19, 1955, is known for playing hard-edged, wise-cracking characters. Some of his best known roles came in the “Die Hard” series of movies (1988, 1990, 1995, and 2007), “The Sixth Sense” (1999), and “Sin City (2005), as well as voiceover in “Look Who’s Talking” (1989), “Look Who’s Talking Too” (1990), and “Over the Hedge” (2006).

The family recommended The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) as a resource for others in need of information and support (Instagram @theaftd and Emma Heming Willis, Bruce Willis’s wife, has become a brand ambassador for AFTD to help bring awareness for the disorder.

Related: Take steps early to diagnose dementia

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey