Ronald Reagan was showing signs of Alzheimer’s while still in office, according to his son Ron Reagan. In his memoir, Ron writes:
“Today we are aware that the psychological and neurological changes associated with Alzheimer’s can be in evidence years, even decades, before identifiable symptoms arise. The question, then, of whether my father suffered from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s while in office more of less answers itself.” (Reagan, 233).
Ron Reagan recalls having concerns as far back as 1984.
“Watching the first of his two debates with 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale, I began to experience the nausea of a bad dream coming true. At 73, Ronald Reagan would be the oldest president ever reelected…[M]y father now seemed to be giving them legitimate reason for concern. My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with notes, uncharacteristically lost for words. He looked tired and bewildered.” (Reagan, 230).
Ronald Reagan was notorious for always having note cards with fixed answers for almost every topic reporters or other political persons may ask him. He constantly forgot what he was talking or arguing about, and needed constant reminders for mundane tasks. Ron Reagan writes that there is “no evidence that my father (or anyone else) was aware of his medical condition while he was in office.”
“Had the diagnosis been made in, say, 1987, would he have stepped down? I believe he would have.” (Reagan, 235).
In 1994, President Reagan revealed to the nation that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But earlier, in 1989, doctors operating on Reagan expressed their belief he was suffering from the degenerative disease.
Ron Reagan writes that in July 1989, his father was thrown off a horse while visiting friends in Mexico. He received medical attention at a hospital in San Diego. When surgeons opened the president’s skull to relieve pressure they “detected what they took to be probable signs of Alzheimer’s disease.” But no formal diagnosis was given.
Reagan, Ron. My Father at 100. New York: PWxyz, LLC, 2012. Print.