Former first lady Nancy Reagan has died, according to the Reagan Foundation and her step-son Michael Reagan. She was 94.
“In 1995, the Reagan’s launched the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute at the association, which has helped to raise and distribute about $15 million for research into the disease.”
As First Lady, Nancy Reagan was the target of both praise and criticism. Many appreciated her class and elegance at the White House that some thought was long overdue. But others saw her as out-of-touch during tough economic times. Reagan was praised by many for her "Just Say No" campaign against drug abuse.
Later in life, Nancy Reagan nursed her husband, former president Ronald Reagan, through his long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. She later became a strong advocate for stem-cell research, in the hope that it would lead to a cure. She supported federally funded embryonic stem cell research in the hopes that such research could lead to an Alzheimer's cure. Among senior caregivers nationwide she will always be remembered.
"Nancy loved Ronald Reagan with a consuming passion. He was her one and only reason for existence…" says Ronald Reagan's biographer Edmund Morris.
Nancy Reagan championed the cause of Alzheimer's patients with an influence and clout that few other caregivers could wield, and the Reagan name has helped raise millions for research. Nancy Reagan has also led the fight against federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research -- discreetly challenging President Reagan's most prominent admirer, President Bush, who imposed restrictive policies on research.
One of her reported quotes on the subject was
“When people say, 'You have Alzheimer's,' you have no idea what Alzheimer's is. You know it's not good. You know there's no light at the end of the tunnel. That's the only way you can go. But you really don't know anything about it. And you don't know what to expect.”
Today, most caregivers know what Alzheimer’s is and what to expect, whether they deal with it or not. Let’s hope that awareness, which Nancy Reagan championed, leads to a great public effort to treat the disease.
More on President Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis:
In a letter to the public dated November 5, 1994, former president Ronald Reagan announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. At the end of the letter, Reagan writes, "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."
In this letter, President Reagan not only helped shine his celebrity spotlight on a disease which many Americans did not understand, but he also highlighted the concern he had for Nancy who would be caring for him. He understood the difficult emotional toll it would take on his wife.
Reagan and his family chose to go public with his diagnosis in hopes of bringing attention to the devastating effects of Alzheimer's disease.