Nobody wants to talk about dementia. And honestly, that’s understandable.
Seeing vibrant and loving people become shells of their former selves is traumatizing.
It’s not just traumatizing for the sick person it’s traumatizing for family and friends.
Watching a loved one have dementia is almost like watching someone die slowly in front of you.
A few weeks ago Bruce Willis’ family announced that Willis was suffering from frontotemporal dementia. Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, is a progressive form of dementia that manifests through extreme emotional shifts, trouble talking and personality changes. Later stages of FTD is like late stages of Alzheimer’s dementia. The personality and memory of an FTD patient are all gone and often a person is in need of 24 hour care.
Nobody wants to think about that.
Yesterday Demi Moore, the ex-wife of Bruce Willis, shared a video of Willis celebrating his birthday. Willis looked clean and happy. He was cracking jokes as he blew out the candles on his cake. There were a few moments where Willis seemed confused but overall it was a happy video.
Most importantly the video showed that Willis had a large support network. He was surrounded by loving family. His personality was still very much intact. The fact that Willis’ ex-wife, Demi Moore, chose to show this happy video was significant.
Moore and Willis had divorced in 2000. Clearly they were still on very good terms.
And that’s what someone needs when he is diagnosed with a long-term illness. He needs family that will put aside past differences in order to care for people.
I have spoken before about how dangerous it is when people decide to permanently cut out “toxic” family members or friends. Celebrities like Jeffrey Marsh make TikToks telling teenagers that they need to cut off family members if there is ever a disagreement. We have gone from saying “Your emotions are valid” to “ONLY your emotions are valid. Everyone else can either validate you without question or get cut off forever.”
You survive with others. You die alone. If you lose the capacity to set aside past differences when a family faces a crisis… you will be alone for the rest of your days. And that is not a pleasant place to be.
Demi Moore’s video was important. Moore showing Willis celebrating his birthday helped to destigmatize dementia. It helped to show a healthy way to celebrate someone with dementia.
It is easy to start pre-grieving the loss of a loved one when you hear that a family member has dementia. You can fall into a trap of thinking someone with a dementia diagnosis is already dead.
That’s not true!
Bruce Willis is still here! And Bruce Willis will still be here to blow out candles and joke with family members for a long time.
Statistically we will all in the course of our lives have to deal with a loved one getting a dementia diagnosis. It will be traumatizing, but videos like the one Demi Moore released are important.
Demi Moore’s video tells us that our loved ones are still here.