Brain Disorder Forces Actor Bruce Willis to Retire

According to his family, Bruce Willis, the actor who gained popularity with the TV Show "Moonlighting" and later became an action movie hero, is facing retirement due to a disease that has hampered his "cognitive abilities."

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Brain Disorder Forces Actor Bruce Willis to Retire
4 Min Read March 31st, 2022

We know him as Detective John McClane in the iconic Die Hard movies; actor Bruce Willis is now facing a struggle that could be a match for his movie action hero persona. 

Bruce Willis will "step away" from acting after being diagnosed and suffering from the effects of Aphasia. Aphasia is a brain disorder resulting from damage to portions of the brain responsible for language and speech. 

Aphasia impairs the expression and understanding of language and affects the ability to read and write. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that Aphasia usually occurs suddenly, often following a stroke or head injury. However, it can also develop slowly, resulting from a brain tumor or a progressive neurological disease. Aphasia may co-occur with other speech disorders, resulting from brain damage.

Severity Varies

The severity of Aphasia depends on several conditions, including the cause and the extent of the brain damage, according to the Mayo Clinic states. Medical experts say the disorder is most common in middle-aged and elderly individuals. It impacts speech cognition, both understanding and expressing.

Aphasia may also be caused by a brain tumor, brain infection, or dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. Details on Willis's condition are limited but first hit social media when the family announced he was stepping away from his career.

"This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support," his family said in a statement. The social media message was signed by seven names - Willis' wife, Emma Heming Willis, ex-wife Demi Moore, and his children Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn Willis.

Around one million Americans suffer from the condition, according to the NIH, and around 180,000 people are diagnosed with it every year. There is no cure for Aphasia, and the problems with communication can last a lifetime in some situations.

Some People Improve – Few Improve Completely

Depending on the condition's underlying cause, some people may improve, especially with speech therapy. However, if the cause is a result of a stroke or dementia, the condition may not improve, and the person may require supervision if cognitive reasoning and memory declines. Mayo Clinic says that while some recovery is possible, "few people regain full pre-injury communication levels."

There is no cure for Aphasia, and the problems with communication can last a lifetime in some situations. Depending on the condition's underlying cause, some people may improve, especially with speech therapy. However, if the cause is a result of a stroke or dementia, the condition may not improve, and the person may require supervision if cognitive reasoning declines. 

Care Costs Can Mount

If his care becomes primarily focused on supervision or help with daily living activities, the costs will become out of pocket. While Willis reportedly has substantial financial resources, his family will face the same stress and burdens other American families face when a loved one needs long-term health care. Unlike Willis, most American families will see a financial crisis and a family crisis.

Health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, pays only for a limited amount of skilled care services. Most long-term health care is custodial - meaning help with daily living activities or supervision due to memory decline. These costs are not covered by traditional health insurance. Medicaid will pay for this type of care if the care recipient has little or no income and assets. Long-Term Care Insurance will also pay for care, including in-home care, but the insurance must be obtained well before any health or age-related decline. Most people purchase LTC Insurance in their 50s.

Willis - Movie Action Hero

Bruce Willis fans remember him from many of the top-grossing action movies of all time. His personality portraying wisecracking or hard-edged characters was memorable throughout the decades. His start as an action movie star followed his role as TV's private eye "David Addison" in "Moonlighting" in the 1980s. The chemistry between him and Cybill Shepherd in the hit romantic comedy television series made him a star.

Then came the big screen in the 1988 movie "Die Hard" as he played New York City detective "John McClane." Numerous sequels made Willis a superstar.

Willis had some flops, as many actors do, but then he returned to hit movies like "Pulp Fiction," "12 Monkeys," "The Fifth Element," "The Sixth Sense," and mega-hit "Armageddon."

He appeared in several "B" rated movies where media reports indicated that Willis had problems remembering lines and his performances were less than Willis-like. While treatment may improve Willis's condition, based on the family's public statement about his cognitive health, it appears unlikely he will return to acting. 

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