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Reagan Family Denies Rumors

Ronald Reagan's family says there is no truth to rumors that the former president's health is rapidly deteriorating.

Reagan is in slow decline from Alzheimer's disease, but there has been no sudden change in his condition, his wife Nancy said Wednesday in an effort to put to rest rumors that he is near death.

"The rumors are absolutely false," Nancy Reagan said in a statement read to The Associated Press by family spokeswoman Joanne Drake.

"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," the statement said.

"We hope that people would be more sensitive than this to the situation."

Rumors about Reagan's health have been swirling for weeks.

A U.S. News & World Report item, published Monday, quoted unidentified sources as saying Reagan representatives have talked about logistics for a state funeral.

Then on Tuesday, an e-mail on Reagan followed some redistributed versions of the California Senate Republican Caucus briefing that is sent out daily by state Sen. James Brulte, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga.

"Rumors from newsrooms are that Ronald Reagan's health is fading and he is on a 36-hour death watch," the e-mail said.

A staffer in the office of state Sen. John Lewis, an Orange County Republican, sent the e-mail to the same group of people to whom she redistributes the briefing and "one of the people who got that assumed that it came from us," Brulte said.

While the rumors spread Tuesday, Reagan was enjoying a scoop of sorbet outside Brentwood's Haagen-Dazs ice cream shop, manager Abbas Malik said. A Secret Service agent purchased the treat.

"I just saw him the other day and he's fine. Quit scaring the family," son Michael Reagan said. "My kids have to deal with it. People come up to them and they ask me if something's wrong with grandpa."

Reagan, who disclosed in 1994 that he had the incurable brain disorder, now makes weekly appearances at his Century City office rather than the daily regimen he had maintained since leaving the White House, Ms. Drake said.

"He's 88 years old and he maintains as physically active a schedule as possible," Ms. Drake said.

Four million Americans have Alzheimer's, the degenerative disease of the brain, which attacks memory and eventually leads to total dependency on others for help in everyday needs such as eating and bathing.

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