If someone asks you to name an action star from the 80s or 90s, you’ll probably mention Bruce Willis. In March last year, the actor’s family revealed Willis’ diagnosis of the brain disorder aphasia. Since the reveal, the family had kept a relatively low profile until this past Thursday. The family released a statement revealing that Bruce Willis had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
“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.
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.” wrote the Willis family
What is Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)?
According to the Mayo Clinic, frontotemporal dementia refers to a category of brain disorders that affect the front and temporal lobes of the brain. These areas are linked to cognition, emotions, personality, and judgment, as well as memory and language.
Per the Alzheimer’s Association, frontotemporal dementia usually affects individuals between the ages of 45 and 65, and the only known risk factor is a family history of any form of frontotemporal degeneration. The condition is responsible for 10%-20% of all dementia cases, making it one of the rare forms of the degenerative condition.
What are the symptoms?
As mentioned, frontotemporal dementia affects the areas associated with personality, memory, language, and cognitive capabilities. Symptoms can include personality and behavioral changes, poor social behavior, as well as difficulty with language and mental focus.
As many of the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia present as personality issues, the Mayo Clinic shared that the condition can be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric issue or Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosing the conditon
There is no specific test for diagnosis. The condition can also be hard to diagnose as its symptoms are quite similar to those of other conditions. Therefore, a doctor will run a variety of tests to eliminate the other conditions and come to a definite conclusion.
These tests can include blood tests, brain scans such as MRIs, and memory tests.
Is Frontotemporal Dementia treatable?
Unfortunately, similar to other forms of dementia, there is currently no cure for the condition and the condition will lead to an inevitable decline in functioning, with the length of progression varying from 2 to over 20 years. Sadly, the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) shared that no treatments are available to slow or stop the progression of the disease.
That said, the organization shared steps for caregivers and loved ones to adopt to help ensure the affected person’s quality of life. These steps include:
- Engage in activities – Those with FTD should stay engaged in enjoyable and stimulating activities of their choosing.
- Don’t take it personally: Adjust your expectations when dealing with their changes in behavior
- Tend to your grieving process
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Bruce Willis’ family referred to the condition as a “cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and that can strike anyone.” The family is now using their platform to raise awareness and promote research on the disorder, believing that this is something that the 67-year-old actor would have wanted.
“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.”