“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” –Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter passed away today at age 96. She was living with dementia. Her husband, Jimmy Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981. He and his wife were the longest-married U.S. presidential couple, having married in 1946, when he was 21 and she was 18.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” the former President said in a statement. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”
In May of 2023, in a powerful public statement, Carter and her family earlier shared that she was living with the disease: “The Carter family is sharing that former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia,” the Carter Center’s statement read. “She continues to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones.” The announcement by the Carter Center comes just a few months months after the announcement that after it said that former president Jimmy Carter, 98, entered hospice care at the family’s home in Georgia.”
“We hope sharing
our family’s news will increase
important conversations at kitchen
tables and in doctor’s offices
around the country.”
The late Rosalynn Carter is known for having grown the role of U.S. presidential First Lady beyond its previous scope of being a celebrated party hostess to serving a leading, public role in governmental policy. She was also, throughout her life, a leading voice for mental health, brain health and caregiver support in the U.S. for much of her life, beginning with her husband’s time as Georgia governor, and both during and after her time in the White House.
She founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, and has long advocated for improved access to care and decreased stigma, and she’s known for, among many others, this powerful quote: “There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”
The Carter family added in their May 2023 statement: “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.”
The family’s public announcement of her dementia was, in itself, an act to break down that stigma, reminding families on similar journeys that they are not alone. “We are grateful for their efforts,” Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., President and CEO, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, said in a statement at the time. “Her work changed many people’s lives for the better. The Carter family’s willingness to share her story will make a positive difference for many more.”
Today, one in 10 Americans over the age of 65 with dementia, and as many as three adults over the age of 85 are living with Alzheimer’s or another neurodegenerative condition. Those numbers are rising as the American population ages.