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Jim Hill: Physical activity part of Reagan's recovery

Jim Hill
Jim Hill  

CNN Correspondent Jim Hill is at St. John's Health Center, the hospital in Santa Monica, California, where former President Ronald Reagan, 89, is recovering from surgery to repair his right hip, broken in a fall.

Q: What happens next?

HILL: We've been told that Mr. Reagan will stay in the hospital for a week to 10 days. But within 48 hours of the surgery, doctors say, he'll be encouraged to get out of bed and walk with assistance. The reason for this is that the longer an elderly patient stays bedridden, the more likely that complications such as pneumonia and heart conditions can occur.

Also, doctors have said they want him to get into a familiar routine, even while he is in the hospital -- doing something with Mrs. Reagan, for example. This will help him refocus his mind which, of course, has been hampered by Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, the longer-term rehabilitation -- at the hospital and at home -- will involve rigorous physical therapy, so doctors want him to regain his mental focus as best he can. It will be challenging to do this with an Alzheimer's patient, and doctors want to get him refocused as soon as possible.

Q: Reagan has been described as "alert." But a year ago, his daughter Maureen said that he cannot speak coherently and, because his motor skills are failing, no longer could join her in working simple jigsaw puzzles. Can you explain what "alert" means in this context?

HILL: The disease has been progressing steadily. When doctors describe him as "alert," I believe they are doing so in context with the fact that he is an Alzheimer's patient. In other words, they are not using the word "alert" as they would with a younger person. They are describing him as physically and mentally alert, as opposed to being unconscious.

Q: Is former first lady Nancy Reagan staying at the hospital with her husband?

HILL: Joanne Drake, Reagan's chief of staff, says Mrs. Reagan has been with her husband, or nearby, ever since the accident on Friday. During surgery on Saturday she was said to be in a room next to the operating room. So, although we don't know from moment to moment if she is always in the hospital, we've been led to believe that she is.

Q:What about visits from Reagan's four children?

HILL: Two of them -- daughter, Patti Davis, and son, Michael Reagan -- visited Saturday. A family spokesperson says his youngest son, Ron Jr., plans to visit soon. His eldest daughter, Maureen, is in the cancer unit of the same hospital. She's been undergoing treatments for melanoma since December 11. I don't know if she's had a chance to visit him.

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January 14, 2001
Reagan to have surgery on broken hip on Saturday
January 13, 2001
Former President Bush doing well after hip replacement surgery
December 5, 2000
Ronald Reagan's golf balls? Step right up!
August 1, 2000
Reagan's Alzheimer's disease 'never gets any better'
July 16, 2000

Saint John's Health Center
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

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