Wendy Williams diagnosed with rare form of dementia, speech disorder

Pop Culture

Wendy Williams has revealed that she is facing a rare form of dementia and a disorder that affects communication.

Williams, 60, was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in 2023 after undergoing “a battery of medical tests,” according to a press release made on behalf of the former talk show host, aiming to correct “inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health.”

“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,” the statement reads.

FTD is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that most often affect the parts of the brain associated with personality and behaviour, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. It can also cause difficulties with speech and movement, as well as memory loss.

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Aphasia is referred to as a “language problem” by the Canadian Aphasia Institute, which states it “most dramatically affects conversational interaction (talking and understanding), as well as the ability to read and write.”

Bruce Willis is another high-profile celebrity who has been diagnosed with FTD and aphasia. Willis announced he was quitting acting in 2022, and a year later, his family made a statement that the actor’s condition had worsened and he was also experiencing FTD.

Click to play video: 'Bruce Willis diagnosed with dementia 1 year after battling with aphasia'

Bruce Willis diagnosed with dementia 1 year after battling with aphasia

The update on Williams’ health comes two years after she cancelled her hit talk show The Wendy Williams Show, which ran for 14 years. At the time, Williams was open that she had been diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid and can cause bulging eyes, excessive sweating and muscle weakness, according to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada.

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The statement on Williams’ behalf acknowledged that her health issues “have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life.”

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“The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances,” it reads.

“Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioral changes but have not yet received a diagnosis.”

Approximately five to 10 per cent of all dementia cases are FTD, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, but it makes up about 20 per cent of all young-onset dementia diagnosed in those under 65. There is also no known cure and no effective way to slow the progression of FTD.

Cathy Barrick, chief executive officer at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, told Global News last year that FTD “primarily attacks the frontal temporal lobe … that governs your behaviour and judgment.”

“So sometimes the symptoms associated with it can be quite disturbing both to the person who is living with it and the people around them.”

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: What is frontotemporal dementia?'

Health Matters: What is frontotemporal dementia?

Barrick said it’s important for people to be aware of FTD and be more understanding of those who have it.

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“People who are in the early stages actually can be still very productive members of society… We don’t want them to have to withdraw as they start to show symptoms and have some struggles,” Barrick said.

“Maybe if employers and family members just understood people’s limitations and that maybe they may have days that are better than others, people can still really actively participate and contribute. And so overcoming that stigma is really, really important.”

Williams is “still able to do many things for herself,” according to the update. “Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed.”

More on Entertainment

A new Lifetime documentary titled Where is Wendy Williams? is due to air on Saturday.

According to People, crews started filming in August 2022 and were set to document Williams’ comeback and she prepared to launch a new podcast.

But things took a turn as Williams’ serious health issues became more clear.

“We’ve all seen the images over the last few months — and, really, few years — of what has seemed like a spiral for my aunt,” Williams’ niece Alex Finnie told People. “It was shocking and heartbreaking to see her in this state.”

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The documentary crews stopped filming in April 2023 as the former host was admitted to a facility to treat “cognitive issues.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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