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Reagan's Alzheimer's disease 'never gets any better'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The eldest daughter of former President Ronald Reagan told CNN on Sunday his Alzheimer's disease "just gets worse every day."

In this story:

A 24-hour disease
Reagan: More money needed
Disease will strike 14 million by 2050

"He makes it very easy for us," Maureen Reagan told substitute host Judy Woodruff during an appearance on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "He goes for walks and does all the things that we encourage him to do. But the disease just gets worse every day. It never gets better.

Reagan Family
Former President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy  

"When I say, 'Not so good,' an Alzheimer's family knows what I'm talking about."

Reagan, a board member of the Alzheimer's Association, is taking part in the first-ever international World Alzheimer Congress 2000, which is meeting in Washington. The conference started July 9 and continues through Tuesday.

A 24-hour disease

  • description
  • risk
  • symptoms
  • treatment
  • prevention
    Source: WebMD
    The tragedy of Alzheimer's

    Now 89, the former president disclosed in 1994 that he was afflicted with the degenerative brain disease. He lives quietly in the Los Angeles area with his wife Nancy.

    Maureen Reagan praised her stepmother and a nurse for their care of the former president. Nancy Reagan lives with the disease 24 hours a day, Reagan said.

    "She's the one who wakes up with it every morning and goes to sleep with it every night," she said. "You know, I think in that moment before you wake up, I think for a moment she almost forgets, and then of course (she) realizes that we are where we are."

    Reagan also said she was proud of her father for going public with his battle because it helped people everywhere acknowledge what otherwise had been a whispered disease.

    Maureen Reagan
    Listen to Ronald Reagan's daughter, Maureen Reagan:
    Part A: (Audio 352K/32 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
    Part B: (Audio 126K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

    Reagan: More research money needed

    On Sunday, the Clinton administration announced the National Institutes of Health would spend $50 million in the next five years for research into vaccines against Alzheimer's.

    Maureen Reagan, who has lobbied for higher funding, said she welcomed the appropriation and would like to see more. Alzheimer's research relies on clinical trials by the government, private pharmaceutical studies and independent work such as that sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, she said.

    The association plans to raise $20 million this year alone, she said.

    "I encourage the private sector to help us raise more research funds, and I encourage the government to spend more on what they're doing," Reagan said.

    Disease will strike 14 million by 2050

    Also appearing on CNN, Donna Shalala, President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, said she agreed with Reagan that more should be spent on Alzheimer's research. She welcomed a bipartisan effort in Congress to increase funding.

    "We're on the verge of perhaps some very important breakthroughs, but we ought to make sure we're making the investment now," Shalala said.

    About 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's now. Authorities estimate that population will increase to 14 million by 2050.

    The international conference features leaders in Alzheimer's studies from throughout the world. The conference is focusing on pivotal research as well as creative care techniques for patients and care-givers.

    Reuters contributed to this story, written by writer John North.

    VideoU.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and President Reagan's daughter Maureen tell CNN's Judy Woodruff about the battle against Alzheimer's
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    VideoCNN's Rhonda Rowland examines advances in treatments for Alzheimer's disease. (July 16)
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    Sunday, July 16, 2000


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