ATLANTA—Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia, her family announced Tuesday.
Carter, now 95, remains at home with former President Jimmy Carter, 98, who has been at home receiving hospice care since early this year.
“She continues to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones,” the family said via The Carter Center, the global humanitarian organization the couple founded in 1982, less than two years after Jimmy Carter’s landslide defeat.
Married nearly 77 years, the Carters are the longest-married first couple in U.S. history.
The family noted in its statement that Rosalynn Carter has spent her long public life advocating for individuals and families affected by mental illness and for those in caregiving relationships with loved ones.
“Mrs. Carter often noted that there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers; those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers,” the family statement reads. “We are experiencing the joy and the challenges of this journey.”
The Carters have been visiting only with family and close friends since the former president’s announcement in February that he would forgo further medical intervention after a series of short hospital stays.
The family has not disclosed any specific diagnosis for either the former president or the former first lady. The statement Tuesday said the Carter family would have no further comment.
The Carters often described themselves as “full partners” throughout his political career and their long public life that followed. Rosalynn Carter campaigned vigorously for her husband in his bids for Georgia governor and the presidency. She used her platform to prioritize mental health awareness.
After their White House years, Rosalynn Carter continued her mental health advocacy at The Carter Center, and she traveled extensively with her husband as part of their work promoting democracy globally and fighting disease in the developing world.
One in 10 older Americans have dementia, the family’s statement said. “We recognize, as she did more than half a century ago, that stigma is often a barrier that keeps individuals and their families from seeking and getting much-needed support. We hope sharing our family’s news will increase important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor’s offices around the country.”
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in Plains on Aug. 18, 1927. Jimmy Carter’s mother, a nurse, delivered her in the Smith family home. Lillian Carter brought her young son back a few days later to visit, allowing the future president and first lady to meet as preschooler and newborn.
They were married on July 7, 1946.
Jimmy Carter enjoyed telling everyone that his wife was “more political” than he was, a point she did not protest.
“I would be out there campaigning right now if Jimmy would run again,” she wrote just a few years after his defeat. “I miss the world of politics.”
By Bill Barrow