Please Stop Yelling at Dementia Patients in the Street, Even If They’re Bruce Willis

The actor's wife recently asked paparazzi to quit harassing her husband

Bruce Willis attends the "Motherless Brooklyn" premiere during the 57th New York Film Festival on October 11, 2019.
Bruce Willis attends the "Motherless Brooklyn" premiere during the 57th New York Film Festival on October 11, 2019.

A few weeks ago, the family of actor Bruce Willis shared the sad news that his aphasia had progressed into frontotemporal dementia. It’s an awful disease — extremely painful both for the people afflicted by it and their loved ones who must watch them decline — and those closest to Willis have by and large been flooded with messages of support. But that doesn’t mean everyone has handled the news perfectly, and Bruce’s wife Emma Heming Willis recently took to Instagram to beg paparazzi to leave her husband alone.

“This one is going out to the photographers and the video people that are trying to get those exclusives of my husband out and about: Just keep your space,” she said in a video posted to the social media platform. “I know this is your job, but maybe just keep your space.”

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“For the video people, please don’t be yelling at my husband asking him how he’s doing or whatever — the ‘woohoo’-ing and the ‘yippee ki-yays’…just don’t do it. OK?” she added. “Give him his space. Allow for our family or whoever’s with him that day to be able to get him from point A to point B safely.”

This should absolutely go without saying, but yelling at a dementia patient while they’re just trying to go about their daily business is absolutely vile. It doesn’t matter if that dementia patient happens to be Bruce Willis. People with dementia often get disoriented or confused; a group of strangers shouting at them will only add to that confusion and possibly cause them to get scared or agitated. We don’t know how far Willis’s disease has progressed; he may not even know that he’s Bruce Willis at this point, in which case being surrounded by a pack of photographers yelling “yippee-ki-yay” would simply be downright terrifying.

Dementia is an especially cruel disease that offers those who suffer from it little dignity. To exploit that by trying to get a rise out of Willis for the cameras is heinous. Walking though life as a celebrity constantly being hounded by the paparazzi is difficult and scary enough when you’ve got all your wits about you. Imagine having to deal with it when you’re suffering from a degenerative brain disease. Willis absolutely deserves to be left in peace, along with any other celebrity dealing with mental illness or other neurological disorders.

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