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Bruce Willis’ Wife Says It is ‘Hard to Know’ If ‘Die Hard’ Actor Understands His Condition

Emma Heming Willis shared an update on husband’s frontotemporal dementia on ‘Today’ in honor of World FTD Awareness Week

spinner image bruce willis smiles at wife emma heming willis on the red carpet in 2019.
Bruce Willis and wife Emma Heming Willis attend the premiere of "Motherless Brooklyn" in 2019.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Emma Heming Willis is not sugarcoating the painful realities of caregiving for a loved one with dementia.

The 45-year-old wife of retired movie star Bruce Willis, 68, appeared on the Today show to share an update on her husband’s condition — her first TV interview since the Willis family announced he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in February 2023.

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“Dementia is hard,” said Heming Willis, who was joined on the show with the CEO of the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration Susan Dickinson. “It’s hard on the person diagnosed, it’s also hard on the family. And that is no different for Bruce, or myself, or our girls. When they say this is a family disease, it really is.”

Asked by interviewer Hota Kotb if the actor is aware of his condition, Heming Willis simply said, “It’s hard to know.”​ ​

FTD is the most common form of dementia in people younger than 60. Symptoms include personality changes, apathy, decision-making difficulties, and speaking or language comprehension challenges. 

The model, who married the Die Hard actor in 2009 and calls herself his ‘care partner,’ said that finally learning her husband’s diagnosis, “was the blessing and the curse. To finally understand what was happening, so that I could be into the acceptance of what is. It doesn't make it any less painful, but just being ... in the know of what is happening to Bruce makes it a little easier. ”​​​​​

Bruce and Heming Willis’ two daughters are 11-year-old Mabel Ray and 9-year-old Evelyn Penn. Bruce also has three daughters with his ex-wife, actress Demi Moore: Rumer Glenn, 35, Scout LaRue, 32, and Tallulah Belle, 29.

Heming Willis said her husband’s condition was teaching her young daughters “how to love, how to care and it’s a really beautiful thing amongst the sadness.” She added:  “I don’t want there to be any stigma or shame attached to their Dad’s diagnosis or any form of dementia.”

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Heming Willis has also been using her Instagram platform to advocate for her husband and raise awareness of brain health issues through interviews with dementia care specialists, speech language pathologists and neurologists for her audience of nearly 900, 000 followers.

“I don’t want it to be misconstrued that I’m good,” she said bluntly in an Instagram video in August. “Because I’m not. I’m not good. But I have to put my best foot forward for the sake of myself and my family.” ​Heming Willis has been outspoken about the role of family caregivers — calling them “unsung heroes.”

According to an AARP report, there are 48 million family caregivers in the U.S. More than 11 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, according to a 2023 Alzheimer's Association report.

Family caregivers provide day-to-day support with care tasks (such as bathing, grooming, dressing, feeding and mobility assistance) for adults with disabling health conditions, and 61 percent of family caregivers work either full- or part-time, according to an AARP report.

“It’s important for care partners to look after themselves so that they can be the best care partner for the person they’re caring for,” Heming Willis said on Today.

Find resources for caregivers on the AARP website.

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