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Wendy Williams Has Frontotemporal Dementia and Aphasia, Representatives Say

Wendy Williams Has Frontotemporal Dementia and Aphasia, Representatives Say

Wendy Williams, the former daytime talk show host, has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and aphasia, a disorder that makes it difficult or impossible for a person to express or comprehend language, according to a statement from her representatives.

Ms. Williams, 59, who hosted “The Wendy Williams Show” on Fox for more than a decade, was officially diagnosed last year after “undergoing a battery of medical tests,” according to a statement released on Thursday.

The tests show that Ms. Williams has primary progressive aphasia, a type of frontotemporal dementia, her representatives said, adding that she was receiving the necessary medical care.

“Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy’s ability to process information,” the statement said, “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 was released before the premiere this Saturday of “Where Is Wendy Williams?” a Lifetime network two-part documentary about Ms. Williams.

The project stopped filming in April, when, according to the documentary, Ms. Williams entered a care center where she has been ever since, People magazine reported on Wednesday. Ms. Williams’s son, Kevin Hunter Jr., says in the documentary that doctors have connected her cognitive issues to alcohol use, People reported. Ms. Williams’s family told People that a court-appointed legal guardian was the only person who had “unfettered” access to her.

Ms. Williams’s sister, Wanda Finnie, told People that her family did not know what center Ms. Williams was in. They cannot call her themselves, she said, but Ms. Williams can call them.

In May 2020, Ms. Williams went on hiatus from her talk show because of fatigue caused by the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease, the show said in a statement at the time. She hosted the next season’s premiere in September 2020, but health struggles prevented her from returning the next season, and the show used guest hosts before it was canceled in 2022.

Her representatives said that they were providing an update about Ms. Williams’s health “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.”

Frontotemporal dementia is the most common kind of dementia for people under 60. The family of the actor Bruce Willis announced that he had frontotemporal dementia in February 2023.

Primary progressive aphasia is a type of frontotemporal dementia that affects people’s ability to speak and communicate.

“It doesn’t really seem like a dementia the way people typically think about that word,” said Dr. Sami Barmada, a neurologist at Michigan Medicine. With primary progressive aphasia, people may struggle to find the right words.

“They could be talking, and then all of a sudden they’ll pause — you can see them trying to get the words out,” Dr. Barmada said.

Patients may also substitute words when they can’t find them, saying something like “thingy” instead of “remote control.” In some cases, patients may also have a hard time following conversations, particularly in groups, and understanding what people are saying around them. The condition progresses slowly over time, and there are few treatment options.

The statement from Ms. Williams’s representatives said that she was “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,” the statement said. “She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way.”

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