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Bruce Willis’ Wife Opens Up About Her Role as a Caregiver Following His Aphasia Diagnosis

With a successful television and film career that’s racked up nearly 150 acting credits, legendary entertainer Bruce Willis recently announced his retirement because of a health condition. The surprising news was delivered by his eldest daughter, Rumor Willis, via Instagram in late March 2022. The announcement read:

To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities. As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.

This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him.

As Bruce always says, “Live it up” and together we plan to do just that.


Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, & Evelyn

Bruce shares two daughters, Mabel and Evelyn, with his wife, Emma Heming Willis. The 67-year-old was previously married to Demi Moore; and they share three daughters, Rumer, Scout and Tallulah.

Bruce Willis earned fame with his Die Hard film franchise.
Bruce Willis earned fame with his “Die Hard” film franchise.

What is Aphasia?

According to the National Aphasia Association, aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is almost always due to injury to the brain ─ most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors or from infections.

Neither Bruce nor his family disclosed the cause of his aphasia. Regardless, one could only assume that this communication-specific diagnosis came as a devastating blow, especially impacting his passion for work that requires reading, memorization and speech. Bruce also released a handful of music albums and contributed to various soundtracks. Three of his catchy singles earned rankings on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including one that cracked the top 10.

Adjusting to a new normal within the disability community can be, of course, challenging for the individual that receives the diagnosis. Additionally, the transition can be complicated for their loved ones and caregivers, too.

Caring for Someone with Aphasia

The ability to communicate is something many take for granted. So when a loved one loses the ability to verbally express themselves, caring for him/her can be confusing, frustrating and emotionally taxing. Caregiving, in general, can be overwhelming at times; yet, rewarding at times too. That’s why it’s important that caregivers not neglect their own needs (and wants) to solely accommodate their loved one with aphasia or other disability.

Married to Bruce since 2009, Emma is already sharing her honest experience about the strain of caregiving. “I put my family’s needs above my own, which I found does not make me any kind of hero,” she said during an interview with The Bump. “That amount of care for everyone else within my household had taken a toll on my mental health and overall health. And it served no one in my family.”

Caregiver burnout can be a real struggle. And it can ignite a trickle effect of consequences. Thankfully, it appears that Emma has quickly recognized her present struggle and has received much-needed support early on in her caregiving journey. She understands that neglecting herself — to put her husband’s care ahead of her own — isn’t going to work long-term.

image of brain waves
credit: Shutterstock

“Someone told me not long ago that when you over-care for someone, you end up under-caring for yourself,” the 43-year-old mother and model shared via her Instagram page in early June; adding, “When you put everyone’s needs above your own, no one wins. I don’t do this perfectly but I really am trying so I can be the best I can be for the people I love and adore.”

And isn’t that all any of us can be… the best we can be?! And, caregivers don’t need to do it alone. Support groups and services are available. Plus, love is powerful and caregiving can be an enjoyable experience.

Emma emphasizes that exercise, a common outlet among caregivers, is very beneficial to her wellbeing. A study published by the National Library of Medicine states that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Furthermore, mental health professionals attest that patients who engage in regular exercise experience improved sleep, increased interest in sex, better endurance, stress relief, improvement in mood, increased energy and stamina, reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness, weight reduction, and reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness.

A Caregiver’s Right to Self-Care

The National Aphasia Association promotes its “Caregiver’s Bill of Rights.” These statements remind caregivers that caring for one’s self should remain a priority (and guilt-free). The Caregiver’s Bill of Rights reads:

  • I have the right to take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the ability to take better care of my loved one.
  • I have the right to seek help from others even though my loved one may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
  • I have the right to maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can do for this person and I have the right to do some things just for myself.
  • I have the right to get angry, be depressed, and express difficult feelings occasionally.
  • I have the right to reject any attempt by my loved one (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt or anger.
  • I have the right to receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do for my loved one as I offer these attributes in return.
  • I have the right to take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has taken to meet the needs of my loved one.
  • I have the right to protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in times when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.
  • I have the right to expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made toward aiding and supporting caregivers.

couple holding hands

Retired, But With More to Come

In a 2001 biography, “Bruce Willis: Overcoming Adversity,” by Sandy Asirvatham, Bruce shared that he stuttered during his childhood years and worked with a speech therapist. Interested in acting, a then young Bruce gravitated toward comedy to distract people from his stutter. However, he went on to be successful in many genres.

Bruce’s latest film, titled White Elephant, was recently released in early June 2022. And he also has several projects now in post-production, including Paradise City, Wire Room, Wrong Place and Die Like Lovers, according to IMDB.

For similar content by AmeriDisability, read the following articles:

Nancy DeVaulthttps://www.ameridisability.com
Nancy is the managing editor of AmeriDisability. She is an award-winning storyteller passionate about health and happiness.

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