"He has his good days and his bad days," Dot Helms, told The News & Observer for a story Sunday. "He still sees friends. Company is good for him. He is still signing books. But he is not able to conduct any business or make any speeches."
The 84-year-old Republican has been slowed by illnesses including a bone disorder, prostate cancer and heart problems. As his career neared its end, he made his way through the Capitol on a motorized scooter. He decided against seeking a sixth term and left Congress in January 2003.
Vascular dementia is considered one of the most common types of dementia in aging people, with symptoms that may appear similar to those caused by Alzheimer's disease, according to the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California-San Francisco.
Helms' last major public appearance was in September, when he was honored by a group of conservatives in Washington. In December, he. Bono briefed the senator on DATA — or Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa — a nonprofit organization he helped found in 2002 with other activists to increase awareness of the crises in Africa.
His memoir, "Here's Where I Stand," was published in September by Random House.
Helms' wife of 63 years said that she and friends visit him daily, and that he hopes to resume going to church.
"His manners are always intact," Dot Helms said. "He is very gracious when people come to see him. He is his same self in a lot of ways. He just doesn't always remember."