01/21/1999 AT 12:00 AM EST
Former President Ronald Reagan, 88, is in a slow decline from Alzheimer's disease, but there has been no sudden change in his condition, Nancy Reagan said Wednesday in an effort to put to rest rumors that he is near death. "The rumors are absolutely false," the former First Lady said in a statement. "President Reagan suffers from Alzheimer's, a progressive disease. However, there has been no dramatic change in his condition that would be cause for the alarming rumors that we are hearing. We hope that people would be more sensitive than this to the situation." Rumors about Reagan's health have been swirling for weeks, fueled by an item in U.S. News & World Report magazine and discussions in Internet chat rooms.