Terry Jones

Profiles of Aphasia: Terry Jones

Terry Jones is funny. As a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus troupe, he entertained audiences by writing, directing, and acting in comedy sketches and full-length movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This talented writer and actor was also diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in 2015. Primary progressive aphasia is a subtype of FTD.

We’ve been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords. Aphasia can affect anyone; even poetic writers and deep thinkers.

First Symptoms

Friends and colleagues first noticed his speech difficulties in 2014. He was working on Monty Python and couldn’t remember his lines.

Michael Palin, another Monty Python member, explains, “Terry was always very good at remembering lines. But this time he had real problems, and in the end he had to use a teleprompter. That was a first for him. I realized then that something more serious than memory lapses was affecting him.”

It took another year after he lost more and more words and conversation dwindled to be diagnosed with PPA. As his daughter points out, “For someone who lived by words and discussions this was tragic.”

Speaking Out

Jones is using his platform to raise awareness for this communication disorder. The Guardian reported last year that,

Jones was not expected to talk to the press again – until last week, when his family requested an interview to help promote public awareness of FTD, a condition that affects tens of thousands of people in the UK but which remains a relatively little-known medical problem. Their hope was that information about Jones’s responses to his condition might help others cope with it.

Palin discussed in the same article how Jones’s personality helps to spread awareness. He admits that Jones started telling people about PPA quickly after diagnosis. He’d say, “‘I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded.’ He knew exactly what was affecting him and he wanted to share that knowledge – because that is the way that Terry is. FTD may cause loss of inhibition, but Terry was never very inhibited in the first place.”

That lack of inhibition is helping many others understand PPA or come to terms with their own diagnosis.

By Eduardo Unda-Sanzana – Flickr, CC BY 2.0



  • carol batten
    August 30, 2018 at 8:47 am

    yes I have the same dementia as Terry Jones. FTD from a PPA . So far this is 6 years , but now my muscles are affecting my back , my words are not easy to remember .

  • Gillian Rafferty
    August 30, 2018 at 10:20 am

    My husband suffers from the same diagnosis though his sight has also been affected. He used to be a professional photographer so, like Terry, his ability to work has been affected. Whilst sad to hear about Terry Jones, It’s good to know that he is raising awareness of it in this country. The U.S. is far more aware and offer more professional advice and assistance for sufferers. There is so little in the U.K. though I believe awareness is growing. As his Carer, I really wish there was more help with strategies to deal with it as, unlike other forms of Aphasia, PPA is not reversible by the usual speech therapy programmes

  • Sheila
    August 30, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    I was recently diagnosed with primary progressive non-fluent aphasia; so far my speech is the only thing affected. I noticed 4 years ago my speech was slowing but my family doctor said I’d always been deliberate in my speech; after a few months I convinced her to refer me to a neurologist who diagnosed me with Alzheimer’s after a MRI. I was devastated but wanted the diagnosis confirmed so I went to the Brain and Memory Center at the University of Washington who provided the correct diagnosis after many tests, a second
    MRI and a PET Scan. I went thru the various stages of grief but have now accepted my diagnosis. I have researched the progression of the disease but found little and this is what I want to know. I know individuals vary but there must be some definite progression steps.

  • Liz Biss
    September 3, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    My Dr. has taken an MRI (and some other tests) he tells me I have aggressive anomia. In simple words, I can speak just fine although I can’t always use one specific word. I am much better off writing online than I am speaking with a friend since I can figure out another work to use “here” and not when I am out with a friend.

    What I want to know is what can I do to get better.

    I will be happy to hear from anyone who has any ideas or actual simulations.

  • Shari shafer
    October 21, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    To: Shelia
    What is the name of the Doctor that you saw at the Universay of Washington, please? I live in Yakima and have recently been diagnosed. Thank you.

  • Clive
    February 5, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Gillian Rafferty tells us ‘The U.S. is far more aware and offer more professional advice and assistance for sufferers.’

    Then the next comment from Sheila, who is in the USA, spent 4 years trying to get a diagnosis that was wrong, then had to get (pay for) another diagnosis.

    Far more aware.

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