When Bruce Willis was diagnosed with aphasia that later progressed into dementia, his wife, Emma Heming Willis, became his primary caregiver—or, as she calls it, “care partner.” The experience hasn’t been easy—but she’s determined to find the beauty in it, and she hopes other caregivers do too.
On Monday, after taking a solo hike, the 45-year-old shared an Instagram video that encouraged caregivers to make time for themselves, even when it’s hard. “It’s so important for us to sort of break up our thinking, which can feel, for me, very much like doom and gloom,” she said. “I know it looks like I’m out living my best life. I have to make a conscious effort every single day…. I do that for myself, I do that for our two children, and Bruce, who would not want me to live any other way.”
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As Willis clarified, just because she shares personal glimpses of positivity doesn’t mean she goes without darkness. “I don’t want it to be misconstrued that, like, I’m good. Because I’m not. I’m not good,” she said. “But I have to put my best foot forward for the sake of myself and my family.”
Willis is still learning how to balance caregiving with nourishing herself—but that process became especially necessary when her initial self-neglect began taking a toll. “I plan, organize, look after everyone and I still rarely make time for me,” she wrote in an April Instagram post. “[My family is] giving me the permission—almost begging me to make time for myself—and I need to shhhh, listen, and just go.”
With that lesson in mind, in her recent post, Willis invited other care partners to join her by sharing pictures of their days with her. “I just want you to take a moment,” she said. “And I know that your day is stressful. And I know that your day is hard. But I want you to just break it up for a minute, just for a second, and just look for something beautiful.”
Followers appreciated the authenticity and encouraging words. “When the airline oxygen masks fall, you’re told to put your mask on first,” one person commented. “You have to do what you need to do to help you get through this,” another added.
In Willis’s caption, she called the clip a “care partner PSA,” adding: “My message is simple. When we are not looking after ourselves, we are no good to the people we love who we want to show up for and take care of. I don’t have this down to a fine science either, but I try.”