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Wendy Williams Diagnosed with Dementia and Her Lifetime Documentary Reveals Struggles with Health and Finances

Wendy Williams has always been a friend in my head, as the former talk show host was fond of saying about celebrities she liked and admired.  Before her eponymous "The Wendy Williams Show" became a nationally syndicated treasure trove for all the goss, I listened to Wendy's daily chat fest on WBLS in New York City. That radio show was a source of afternoon delight while working 9 to 5, and I've been a fan of the "Queen of All Media" for a long time.

So it has been hard to watch Wendy devolve into a hot topic -- while publicly dealing with the embarrassment of infidelity in her marriage, a nasty divorce, losing her hit talk show and subsequent health and financial woes. 

While she was still doing her talk show, which ran for 12 years, the gossip girl openly discussed her battles with substance abuse and her medical struggles with Graves' Disease and Lymphedema. I was even watching when Wendy fainted on live television during a 2017 Halloween episode of her talk show. 

“I’m a 53-year-old, middle-aged woman going through what middle-aged women go through if you know what I mean,” she said at the time. “The costume got hot. All the sudden right before passing out, I felt like I was in the middle of a campfire.”

So how is Wendy really doing? In recent years there have been rumors that the TV personality, now 59, is dealing with dementia. And ahead of the premiere of the anticipated two-part Lifetime documentary, "Where is Wendy Williams?" (airing Feb. 24-25 and repeating March 1-2), her care team disclosed that in 2023, after undergoing a battery of medical tests, Wendy was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Actor Bruce Willis was also diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behavior and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life.

In a press release, Wendy's care team stated, "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. 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.

There is hope that with early detection and far more empathy, the stigma associated with dementia will be eliminated, and those affected will receive the understanding, support, and care they deserve and need. 

Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. 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. She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way."

From the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), here are a few communication changes people with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) may experience early in the disease:

  • talking or signing slower than usual;
  • having difficulty thinking of words, even the names of familiar objects and people;
  • leaving words out or mixing up the order of words in sentences;
  • using a different word than the one they mean (e.g., "table" instead of "chair");
  • having difficulty understanding what words mean;
  • struggling to follow a conversation; and/or
  • making mistakes in spelling that they wouldn't typically make.

To learn more about the warning signs of dementia (specifically for African-American women), and lifestyle choices like proper diet, exercise and limited alcohol consumption that could prevent the disease, read this insightful article at Sisters from AARP.



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