Ronald Reagan's Daughter Patti Davis Discusses Alzheimer's Disease
In 1994, President Ronald Reagan received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Shortly after his diagnosis, he penned a letter to the American people with the intent of bringing awareness to the disease. Reagan knew that Alzheimer’s had no cure and as it progressed his family would bear a heavy burden. Reagan’s one wish was to spare Nancy, his wife, from this painful experience.
Reagan’s candor about his disease started a push to fund research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Franklin Roosevelt launched the March of Dimes to conquer polio, Dwight Eisenhower was open and frank about his heart disease. Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan had breast cancer and inspired thousands of women to undergo mammograms.
Nancy Reagan and her family were the primary emotional support for a president who suffered from this disease for ten years.
It all started with a visit to the Mayo Clinic after repeated signs of something being wrong. He kept forgetting things, repeating himself, and getting frustrated trying to do the simplest things. The doctors told the Reagans that the former president had Alzheimer’s disease. It was heartbreaking to hear.
There was little information about what questions to ask, what the future would be and how the disease would affect the family. All Nancy Reagan knew was that she would have the “longest goodbye” to someone who was leaving her “slowly, painfully, and bit by bit” while physically still all there.
Beyond Alzheimer’s: Patti Davis's way to help other Alzheimer's families
"If you can find a balance of grief and gratitude and pain and moments of joy between mourning what you lost and realize some things can't be lost, like the love for another person, then you will be a different person at the end of the journey," Patti Davis said.
The journey with someone who has Alzheimer’s is painful and prolonged. There is an end, it doesn't come until the caregivers and loved ones have already suffered from intense worry, heartache, anger, and frustrations. Patty Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, suggests that you do not take the journey alone.
To that end, she started a support group called Beyond Alzheimer’s in 2011.
Davis was aware of the letter her father wrote to the world about his 1994 diagnosis. She believed that Alzheimer’s took his body, but it did not take his soul. These are the words Patti Davis spoke to a group at the Henry Hood Center for Health Research. She also took her campaign, using the internet to Geisinger Health System. Geisinger is a coordinated hub of services and providers, who work with hospitals, trauma centers, insurance, medical education and research facilities, They have adopted Patti Davis’ Beyond Alzheimer’s advocacy group.
Patti explained that for three long years of her father’s life, could not even speak. Here was the former President of the United States who no longer use words to talk. She said she communicated with him even if it was in total silence. He kept his eyes shut for days before he passed away, but at the age of 93 in 2004, he opened his eyes, and they were clear and bright when he gazed at her mother.
Patti told them, “He was there. For a moment he was all there. 100%"
Read more about the great work Patti Davis is doing for Alzheimer's patients worldwide.
Photo Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (Wikimedia Commons)