12 January 2010

Reagan: a president's battle with Alzheimer's

In 1994, former pres Ronald Reagan announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

In a letter to the American public in 1994, former American president Ronald Reagan disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

At the age of 70, Reagan was the oldest person to be elected as president. His presidency ran for two terms, from 1981 to 1989. His disclosure of his illness raised debate about his mental state as President.

During his two terms, series of well-publicised memory lapses provoked uncertainty about his mental competence. He was described by some opponents as absent-minded, inattentive, incurious and even lazy.

White House response
However, four main White House doctors responded to these allegations by stating that they saw no evidence that he had crossed the line between forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to them they never found his memory, reasoning or judgement significantly impaired. They pointed out that tests of mental status did not begin to show evidence of disease until more than four years after he left office.

His decision to go public was based on his wish to raise public awareness around this crippling disease. In 1995, Reagan and his wife, Nancy, joined forces with the Alzheimer Association to establish the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute. The institute has since been dedicated to fund and encourage research in the field.

Once dubbed the “Great Communicator” of American politics, he became mostly silent and retreated from public view. - (Ilse Pauw, Health24)

For more information visit: Dementia SA: or Alzheimer’s South Africa:


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