Reagan Has Increased Alzheimer's Awareness

In 1994, Former President Reagan announced that he was one of millions of Americans afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease.
In a simple handwritten letter, he helped to change the way Americans look at the disease. Addressing the country, Reagan wrote: "In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals who are affected by it."
According to groups like the Alzheimer's Alliance of Northeast Texas that's just what the Reagan's did.
"Anytime people will come forward and let you know that they have the disease, people talk about it, they get it out to the public, that's very, very helpful," said Executive Director Jana Humphrey. 
Despite opposition from the Republican Party, Nancy Reagan recently lobbied President Bush to overturn his decision limiting federal funding of stem cell research.
Scientists hope it is step towards preventing or curing Alzheimer's Disease. The Alliance says they have no formal stance on stem cell research, but they are thankful for the work Nancy has done to increase public knowledge.
"The stigma that's attached to Alzheimer's is still out there," said Development Coordinator Ginny Smith. "Just the fact that they came forward and Nancy has advocated the disease so widely, it's been a huge leap for Alzheimer's awareness.
The Alliance hopes Nancy Reagan's work will continue and that the public will be educated about a disease that affects too many.
Ten percent of people 65 or older suffer from Alzheimer's Disease, that number changes to 50 percent for those over the age of 85.

Story by Maya Golden,