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Wendy Williams diagnosed with dementia and aphasia – the same condition as Bruce Willis

Wendy Williams diagnosed with dementia and aphasia – the same condition as Bruce Willis

Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), her team has announced.

FTD is the same diagnosis Bruce Willis was given in September 2023, following his original diagnosis of aphasia.

“In 2023, after undergoing a battery of medical tests, Wendy was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD),” the 59-year-old former daytime talk show host’s care team wrote in a press release.

“Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behavior and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life.”

The news comes amid rumours and speculation about Williams’ health.

“Her care team is sharing this very personal update with her cherished fans, friends, and supporters to correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health,” the press release added.

“As Wendy’s fans are aware, in the past she has been open with the public about her medical struggles with Graves’ Disease and Lymphedema as well as other significant challenges related to her health.

Wendy Williams (Getty Images for New York Women in Film & Television)
Wendy Williams (Getty Images for New York Women in Film & Television)

“Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy’s ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy’s condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions.”

Williams is best known for her eponymously titled chat show, The Wendy Williams Show, which she hosted from 2008 to 2021. She stepped away as host due to medical issues, with numerous guest hosts filling in. It was later cancelled in 2022.

Her newest health update comes ahead of the premiere of her two-part Lifetime documentary, Where is Wendy Williams?, which she produced. It will shed light on Williams’ story and her health challenges.

Where is Wendy Williams? will be available to watch on the Lifetime channel on 24 and 25 February at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET on both days.

On Wednesday (21 February), it was reported that the talk show host is living in a facility where she’s being treated for her cognitive issues.

“I spoke with her yesterday and I speak with her very regularly when she reaches out to me,” her sister, Wanda, told People. “She is, from what I understand, in a wellness, healing type of environment…We cannot reach out to her, but she can reach out to us. And she is in a healing place emotionally. She’s not the person that you see in this film.”

Bruce Willis and his wife Emma (Instagram via @emmahemingwillis)
Bruce Willis and his wife Emma (Instagram via @emmahemingwillis)

Meanwhile, Emma Willis has been keeping fans updated on her husband’s condition on social media, as well as raising awareness of living with dementia and sharing her experiences of caring for a loved one with the condition. She will be releasing a book in 2025, which is a guide to caregiving that draws on her experiences of caring for Willis.

FTD is an “umbrella term” for a group of dementias that mainly affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for such things as personality, behaviour, language and speech, according to Dementia UK.

The symptoms can be distressing to family members, as they include reduced motivation, inappropriate behaviour, difficulty with planning or focusing on tasks and lack of awareness about the changes in themselves. Some people may also show a lack of interest in their activities, which is sometimes mistaken for depression, and some may exhibit a lack of empathy.

As the condition progresses, it can lead to speech and language issues like forgetting the meanings of certain words, difficulty writing, difficulty naming things, and gradual loss of vocabulary.

Emma said last year that she isn’t sure if her husband is aware of his disease, saying it’s “hard to know”. She added that she calls herself a “care partner”, rather than a “caretaker”.