Bruce Willis' wife Emma praises her daughters for their response to their dad's illness
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Bruce Willis' wife Emma Hemming Willis has shared her praise for the way their two daughters have responded since learning about their dad's illness.
Willis' family announced earlier this year that the Sixth Sense actor had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) after previously experiencing aphasia, which affects how a person speaks and understands.
FTD mainly affects behaviour, communication and planning skills, and Emma is now helping to raise awareness for the condition through World Frontotemporal Dementia Awareness Week, which begins today (25 September).
In an interview with Today to mark the start of the week, Emma shared an update on her husband's health as she admitted that dementia is 'hard'.
"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."
Emma and Willis share two children, Mabel Ray Willis, 11, and Evelyn Penn Willis, 9.
The Die Hard star is also dad to three older daughters; Rumer Glenn Willis, 35; Scout LaRue Willis, 32; and Tallulah Belle Willis, 29, who he shares with Demi Moore.
Emma said it's 'hard to know' whether Willis is aware of his condition, but she described him as the 'gift that keeps on giving' as his experiences are teaching their daughters traits like 'love, patience and resilience'.
Praising the two girls for their response to their dad's illness, she said: "It's teaching them so much and how to care and love, and it’s really a beautiful thing amongst the sadness."
For her role in caring for Willis, Emma describes herself as a 'care partner', rather than a caretaker.
"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," she said.
Explaining notable symptoms of FTD, Susan Dickinson, CEO of the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, said: "What we're really talking about is unexplained changes in how a person is in the world. So, somebody who normally speaks absolutely fine has trouble putting their thoughts into meaningful sentences, or they may lose the meaning of a specific word."
Suddenly struggling with finances, having problems at work, 'making poor decisions or (not) completing tasks' can also be signs, Dickinson said.
Emma has explained that 'finally' being able to understand what was happening to Willis has allowed her to help accept it, though she added: "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."