How is Bruce Willis' health? What to know about his frontotemporal dementia diagnosis

Since 2022, Bruce Willis has been grappling with his health, including an aphasia diagnosis and frontotemporal dementia.

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Bruce Willis' family revealed a little over a year ago that he'd been diagnosed with a condition called frontotemporal dementia. The symptoms of the illness prompted him to retire from acting in 2022.

Willis' illness, also known as FTD, is a type of degenerative condition that primarily affects communication and behavior rather than memory, like other types of dementia. One of the actor's early symptoms of the illness was aphasia, when a person struggles to speak, write and understand other people.

The Willis family first shared in March 2022 that the action star was struggling to communicate and he needed to leave Hollywood. In February 2023, they confirmed that his condition had progressed to an official diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.

Since then, Willis’ wife, Emma Heming Willis, and the rest of the family, including his daughters with ex Demi Moore, have continued to share updates.

Frontotemporal dementia is the most common type of dementia in people under 60. Here's what to know about Bruce Willis' health.

Bruce Willis health update

Willis recently celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary and 69th birthday, which members of his family marked by sharing photos of the "Die Hard" star on Instagram.

Heming Willis, 45, posted sweet pics in honor of both days and shared a powerful message about celebrating milestones with a loved one with dementia.

"I can make a choice. I can wallow in sorrow or I can celebrate it. I call this the 'remarkable reframe.' What I know is there is so much to celebrate," she wrote on Instagram. "Our union and connection is probably stronger than ever. We have two bright, fun and healthy daughters. We have a family unit that is built on mutual respect and admiration. And simply, I just love and adore the man I married. I’m so proud of what we have and continue to create. So, happy crystal anniversary to us! "

Willis' daughters Scout and Rumer Willis and his ex-wife, Demi Moore, also shared new pictures celebrating his life.

In one picture posted by Moore, Willis reclines in a chair while sitting next to Moore and holding her arm. "Happy birthday, BW! We love you and are so grateful for you," she captioned it.

Rumer Willis also shared some snapshots with her dad. In the last photo in the carousel, which appears to be the most recent, she wraps her arm around her father as he points at something in the distance.

"Oh Daddio, to be loved by you is such a gift. You are the funniest, most tender, charming, out of this world silly talented and magical papa," she wrote in part.

Heming Willis also shared a picture of her husband's birthday cake on her Instagram story, joking that 69 candles would've "set the house on fire."

She last gave an update on how Bruce Willis is doing in a video posted to Instagram on March 3, where she slammed headlines reporting incorrect information about his condition.

She started the clip by saying how claims that her husband had "no more joy" due to his condition "triggered" her.

"I can just tell you, that is far from the truth," Heming Willis explained. "I need society and whoever’s writing these stupid headlines to stop scaring people. Stop scaring people to think that once they get a diagnosis of some kind of neurocognitive disease that that’s it, it’s over."

"No, it is the complete opposite of that, OK? 100% there is grief and sadness, there is all of that. But you start a new chapter ... filled with love ... connection ... joy ... happiness. That's where we are," she added.

The mother of two previously shared a glimpse of her life caring for her husband in an Instagram post shared in late December.

“Holidays are hard. Anniversaries are hard. But for me this year, it has really been about community,” she said, adding that she'd just had a “good cry” with a close friend of hers.

Around the same time, Heming Willis shared a series of snapshots of the couple, writing, "My love and adoration for him only grows."

In January 2024, Willis' ex-wife, Moore, spoke to Andy Cohen on his SiriusXM show, Radio Andy, and gave advice to others caring for a loved one with dementia.

“When you let go of who they’ve been, or who you think they (are), or who even you would like them to be, you can then really stay in the present and take in the joy and the love that is present and there for all that they are, not all that they’re not,” she said.

Another update on Willis’ health came in November 2023 after he spent Thanksgiving with his family. Scout Willis posted a brief clip of the actor holding her hand with the caption, “My guy.”

Scout Willis shared a sweet video over Thanksgiving of herself and her dad, Bruce Willis, who's living with frontotemporal dementia.@scoutlaruewillis via Instagram

Scout Willis also shared another intimate moment with her father in a photo round-up celebrating 2023. In the picture, she rests her head on her dad's chest as he holds her head in his hands and they smile at each other.


Scout Willis and dad Bruce Willis.@scoutlaruewillis via Instagram

Earlier in November, Tallulah Willis, Bruce Willis' youngest daughter with ex Demi Moore, shared an update on her dad's condition during an appearance on "The Drew Barrymore Show." She described Bruce Willis' dementia as "really aggressive" and reflected on spending time with him as of late.

"He is the same, which, I think, in this regard, I’ve learned is the best thing you can ask for," Tallulah Willis told Barrymore. "I see love when I’m with him, and it’s my dad and he loves me."

She added that their time together usually revolves around music: “Playing music ... and sitting in that and this energy of love, it’s really special."

During a September 2023 appearance on TODAY, Heming Willis spoke about caregiving and how Willis was doing for World FTD Awareness Week. It was her first interview since his diagnosis was made public.

“Dementia is hard,” Heming Willis said. “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.” (She and Bruce Willis share two daughters, Mabel, 11, and Evelyn, 9.)

Asked if her husband was aware of what's going on with his health, Heming Willis replied, "It's hard to know."

She added that accepting his diagnosis has been "painful, but ... just being in the know of what is happening to Bruce makes it a little easier."

She also shared that it's been "a beautiful thing amongst the sadness" to watch how her two daughters are learning traits like "love, patience and resilience" from caring for their father.

In February 2023, the Willis family shared in a statement that they finally had a "clear diagnosis" of frontotemporal dementia, adding that "challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces."

Since then, his family has shared moments that shed light on how his condition is progressing. For example, in August 2023, Heming Willis shared that she often struggles with staying positive with caring for her husband.

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

"So I don’t want it to be misconstrued that, like, I’m good — because I’m not good," she continued. "But I have to put my best foot forward for the sake of myself and my family.”

Earlier in the summer, on Father's Day, Bruce Willis was doing well enough to meet his grandchild, Louetta, who was born in April 2023 and is the daughter of his oldest daughter, Rumer.

Bruce Willis in 2023 meeting his grandchild.@rumerwillis via Instagram

“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,” Rumer Willis wrote on Instagram on June 18. “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 …”

Also for Father's Day 2023, Heming Willis shared that she has "deep appreciation and respect" for her husband as he continues to father daughters Mabel and Evelyn, as his illness progresses. "Where it might not be 'conventional,' what he’s teaching them will span generations. Unconditional love, kindness, strength, compassion, patience, generosity, resilience," she wrote on Instagram.

The Willis family also marked his birthday on March 19, 2023, with a video of Bruce Willis' shared to Moore's Twitter account — the first of him since his diagnosis was announced publicly. In the sweet clip, his daughters and wife sing "Happy Birthday" to him as he jokes about their vocal range in the background.

What happened to Bruce Willis?

Bruce Willis was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, aka FTD, and had to retire from acting. Before his family publicly shared his diagnosis in 2023, they revealed in March 2022 that he had to step away from Hollywood because he was experiencing a disorder called aphasia. Aphasia occurs when a person struggles with speaking, understanding, reading or writing.

Aphasia can be caused by a head injury or stroke, and the onset will usually be sudden, or it can be caused by a disease such as frontotemporal dementia, in which case the communication difficulties get worse over time, experts previously told TODAY.com.

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

What were the early signs of Bruce Willis’ dementia?

The early signs of Bruce Willis' dementia included difficulty communicating, aka aphasia, and "a vague unresponsiveness," Tallula Willis wrote in her Vogue essay, "which the family chalked up to Hollywood hearing loss: ‘Speak up! ‘Die Hard’ messed with Dad’s ears.’”

“Later that unresponsiveness broadened, and I sometimes took it personally. He had had two babies with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought he’d lost interest in me,” Tallulah Willis continued, later noting that this "couldn't have been farther from the truth."

She finally realized her father's health was declining when she was at a wedding and the father of the bride gave an emotional speech.

"Suddenly I realized that I would never get that moment, my dad speaking about me in adulthood at my wedding. It was devastating,” she recalled. “I left the dinner table, stepped outside, and wept in the bushes.”

FTD patients sometimes have “difficulty expressing themselves, understanding what’s being spoken and figuring out the meaning of things sometimes,” Dr. Jagan Pillai, neurologist at Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, previously told TODAY.com.

Did Bruce Willis retire?

Yes, it was announced that Bruce Willis was retiring from acting in March 2022, when his family revealed that he'd been experiencing aphasia. Aphasia is a symptom associated with dementia and other illnesses that causes difficulty with communication, both in speaking and understanding written and spoken language.

What is Bruce Willis’ health condition?

Bruce Willis was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, which includes a variety of neurodegenerative conditions, his family announced in February 2023. FTD impacts the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Its onset begins earlier than other degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and symptoms start on average around age 58, according the Cleveland Clinic. Unlike other forms of dementia, memory difficulties aren’t the hallmark symptom of FTD.

“Most people, when they think of the word dementia, they think problems with memory and Alzheimer’s disease, but FTD doesn’t really show up as problems with memory. ... It affects how people behave, how they interact with others and how they speak,” says Dr. Sami Barmada, director of Michigan Brain Bank and associate professor of neurology at University of Michigan Medicine, previously TODAY.com.

Primary progressive aphasia is a type of FTD, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Aphasia can also be caused by a stroke, and in these cases the loss of ability to speak is usually sudden. But with progressive aphasia, as Bruce Willis likely has, it usually starts out mild and gets worse as time passes, Barmada said.

Other common symptoms of FTD include apathy or unwillingness to talk, changes in personality and becoming more depressed, lack of social skills and obsessive behavior.

“It doesn’t look like a dementia or something that you can put your finger on. ... Very often you’ll hear people say they just started to act really weird, and they’re not the same person,” Barmada said.

How long can you live with Bruce Willis' disease?

The average life expectancy for someone with frontotemporal dementia, which Bruce Willis has, is seven to 13 years after diagnosis, per the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Cleveland Clinic said the life expectancy is seven and half years, while Barmada told TODAY.com that 10 years or longer is considered a good prognosis.