The nation was saddened by the news of former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s death on Sunday. She and her husband had a big impact on the way Alzheimer’s is viewed in the U.S. after president Reagan announced he had the disease in 1994.
It's been almost 10 years since Cliff Samples found out his wife Maryann had a form of Alzheimer's.
“It's extremely difficult and there are times when Maryann doesn't know who I am. I was devastated I've cried a lot,” Samples said.
He came to the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County for guidance and support.
“I have to figure out how we can best handle a very, very difficult situation,” Samples said.
He is just one of the thousands of people in Texas in a similar situation. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 340,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s in Texas. Across the country, they say there are 5.4 million people with the disease.
The people who work at the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County say ever since the Reagans announced the president's struggle with the disease over 20 years ago, more people have been encouraged to get help.
“Anytime someone who is high profile is dealing with an issue, then certainly it makes it easier for other folks who are dealing with it to come forward,” Jana Humphrey, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County, explained. "People begin to understand that anybody can be touched by it,” she added.
The Reagans also partnered with the National Alzheimer’s Association to form the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute in 1995, meant to promote further research to find a cure for the disease.
Besides just bringing awareness to the disease and promoting further research, Humphrey also said Nancy Reagan served as an example for people whose spouses have Alzheimer’s.
“She's going to be remembered for her love of President Reagan and her commitment to him regardless of whatever he was facing,” Humphrey said.
“We're not ready to throw in the towel. There is hope a lot of hope,” he said.
Hope that one day the Reagans’ efforts won’t be lost and a cure can be found.