- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

Former President Ronald Reagan's daughter Maureen says her father is doing as well as someone with Alzheimer's disease can, but that the disease "just gets worse every day."

"He makes it very easy for us," Maureen Reagan said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition." "He goes for walks and does all the things that we encourage him to do.

"But the disease just gets worse every day. And it is just that it never gets better. So … when I say [his condition is] not so good, Alzheimer's families know what I'm talking about."

The White House announced yesterday that federal researchers will get an additional $50 million over the next five years for research into prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease, including a potential vaccine.

Research "provides new hope not only for Americans who are at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease in the future but for those who are already in its early stages," President Clinton said in a statement from Camp David, where he is attending a summit conference with Middle East leaders.

Maureen Reagan, an activist with the Alzheimer's Association, said the disease's course runs from forgetfulness of the mind to "more physical forgetfulness the body. The brain stops telling the body how to stand up, how to walk. So you're constantly having to encourage those very necessary things, and eventually it the brain stops telling you to swallow and stops telling you to breathe."

That is what is facing her father, said Maureen Reagan, who had praise for her stepmother, former first lady Nancy Reagan.

"There is a special place in heaven for care givers," she said, speaking of her stepmother.

"She is the one who wakes up with it every morning, goes to sleep with it every night. And … in that moment before you wake up, I think for a second she almost forgets and then of course wakes up and realizes that we are where we are."

Maureen Reagan wrote in a magazine essay in January that her father cannot speak coherently and, because his motor skills are failing, no longer can join her in working simple jigsaw puzzles.

A month earlier, Nancy Reagan said in a television interview that the former president no longer was capable of having a conversation that made sense.

The former first lady said friends were no longer invited to the Reagans' California home because he did not recognize them. He also no longer swims or takes walks, she said.

The $50 million announced yesterday for the National Institutes of Health is to build on preliminary findings made public last week about the search for a vaccine against the progressive, degenerative brain disease that afflicts 4 million Americans. The aging of the baby boom generation will push the total to 14 million by 2050.

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