Heming Willis, who has been married to the actor since 2009 and shares two daughters with him, said it’s important that her husband has his space when out in public.
“Please don’t yell at my husband asking how he is,” she said. “Allow our family or whoever is with him that day to be able to get him from point A to point B safely.”
Willis’ family announced last month that the 67-year-old had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, or FTD. The announcement came about a year after he retired from acting, citing a communication disorder known as aphasia, which had since progressed. There is no treatment or cure for FTD, which mainly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60.
Heming Willis said her husband had recently been harassed by photographers seeking to capture images of the star as he met friends for coffee. She thanked Willis’ friends for doing “lifelong protective work” and explained how “stressful and difficult” it can be for loved ones and caregivers to help those with the disease navigate the world.
“Any tips or advice on how to get your loved ones out into the world safely?” asked Heming Willis. In the comments, many praised his honesty and attempt to raise awareness about the disease.
Bruce Willis has frontotemporal dementia: what are the symptoms of FTD?
Neurologists say people with FTD may need extra support with daily activities as the disease progresses. Patients may also need help with physical safety and communication.
Symptoms of FTD can include changes in behavior, speech or movement, experts said. Patients can suffer from aphasia like Willis, which can cause them to have trouble understanding or producing language.
The actor’s family said in February that he was facing communication issues, among many other symptoms of the disease. “While it is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis,” read the statement released by Heming Willis, his ex-wife Demi Moore and his five daughters.
The family said the public’s “compassion, understanding and respect” will help them help Willis live “as full a life as possible.”
Richard Sima, Kelyn Soong, Caitlin Gilbert and Marlene Cimons contributed to this report.