Reagan's Final Years Devastated by Alzheimer's

There had always been jokes about Ronald Reagan's seeming inattention to detail, and his memory lapses. But the jokes stopped -- with the news in November of 1994 that he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

In his statement, Reagan said, "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life." It brought an outpouring of sympathy from around the world, and praise for his courage in speaking out.

Nancy Reagan began making public service announcements on behalf of Alzheimer's groups. Nothing much was said publicly about Reagan's condition. But some old political friends eventually stopped going to see him -- saying it hurt too much.

Reagan was having more and more difficulty recognizing people. His son Ron said last year that his father hadn't recognized him for five years. Still, the illness served to bring closer together a family that had often been estranged. Even daughter Patti, who'd been harshly critical of her parents, became close to her mother again.

Associated Press