The Long Goodbye
Sadly, Ronald Reagan will likely understand little of what's going on around him. At 92, the former president is in the last stages of Alzheimer's, the devastating disease from which he has suffered for nearly a decade. The once-robust leader of the free world can no longer speak, feed himself or even recognize his wife. Confined to a hospital bed, or occasionally placed in a wheelchair, he spends his days in a small room, where – on orders from a wife ferociously intent on guarding his dignity – even his closest friends have been forbidden to visit. it has been several years since an outsider has been allowed to see him. According to his oldest son, Michael, 58, who remembers the days when actor James Cagney would stop by the house at precisely 4 p.m. every Christmas Day, "We haven't been getting together (during the holidays) as a family lately, only because of Dad. He doesn't know it's Christmas."
For Ronald Reagan each day is the same. "He's in the throes of continual neurological degradation," explains his former White House doctor John Hutton. "Occasionally he is put in a wheelchair and moved out where he can view the city, but there is a vacantness there. You can't really tell if he appreciates it." If it weren't for his remarkably rugged constitution, says Hutton, Reagan would probably be gone already.