Ronald Reagan And 5 Other Famous People Who Had Alzheimer’s

Date December 1, 2017

Most common victims of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking, and other cognitive functions and in later stages impairs basic bodily functions, such as walking and swallowing. It is most common in people who are older than 65, and it is one of the common myths around this disease. Actually, individuals who are younger can also be affected. Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from the video below:


According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, about 1 in 20 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are aged 40 to 65. There’s currently no cure for the disease, but the leading research institutes around the world are working to find it.

Nobody is impervious to Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s a list of 6 famous people who had Alzheimer’s:

Ronald Reagan


The 40th President of the United States and one of the most respected political figures in modern times, Ronald Reagan, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994 when he was 83. President Reagan and his wife Nancy decided to inform the nation in a public letter.  Reagan opened the letter with the words:

My fellow Americans, I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

In the same letter, Reagan also acknowledged the importance of raising public awareness of Alzheimer’s:

In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

Reagan lived another 10 years after his diagnosis and died of pneumonia (a complication of Alzheimer’s) in 2004.

Rita Hayworth


Rita Hayworth became famous in 1940s and appeared in more than 60 films. The actress may have had Alzheimer’s (early-onset) for about two decades before she was finally diagnosed in 1980. She died in 1987 at age 68 from complications linked to the disease.

Hayworth’s diagnosis and the fact that she had remained undiagnosed for so long brought Alzheimer’s into the spotlight and urged people to learn more about it.

Peter Falk


Peter Falk was most famous for his roles as Lieutenant Columbo in the hit TV series "Columbo" and the grandfather in “Princess Bride.” His diagnosis became public in 2008, and he died from pneumonia (a complication of Alzheimer’s) in 2011 at the age of 83.

Etta James


One of the most prominent R&B singers Etta James learned she had Alzheimer’s in 2008. But she didn’t die from it; leukemia took her life in 2012.

Terry Pratchett


Best known for his works in comic fantasy genre Terry Pratchett received Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2007. He succumbed to the disease in 2015. Pratchett’s assistant, Rob Wilkins, tweeted from his account:

Glen Campbell


Country music star Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, but that didn’t stop him from recording another album and completing his final tour. Campbell died in 2017 at the age of 81 surrounded by his family. The touching song titled “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” that appears in Campbell’s last album is dedicated to his wife and children.

Today, patients with Alzheimer’s are expected to live another 8-10 years after the diagnosis. But over the next decades we may finally see more advanced and effective treatments or even a cure. Increased public awareness is also important, and learning that someone they admire has or had Alzheimer’s may prompt people to learn more about this condition.

Source:, A Place For Mom, CBS SF Bay Area, LiveScience

READ ALSO: Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia: What Is The Difference

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