(HealthDay News) – Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia but continues to live at home, the Carter Center announced Tuesday.
Carter spends her days there with her husband, former president Jimmy Carter, who himself is receiving hospice care.
Rosalynn Carter is 95 and Jimmy Carter is 98.
“The Carter family is sharing that former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia. She continues to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones,” the center said in a news release.
The Carter Center is not planning to make additional comments on Rosalynn Carter’s diagnosis but said in sharing it this helped “increase important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor’s offices around the country.”
The Alzheimer’s Association applauded the family’s decision to announce her diagnosis.
“The news of her diagnosis is devastating for people around the world, but her family’s transparency will also be meaningful for millions who are all too familiar with the crushing realities of other forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease,” the association said in a statement.
“Throughout her life, Ms. Carter has been a leader in promoting our nation’s caregivers,” the association added. “Through her Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, she provided resources and support to improve the health and well-being of unpaid caregivers, including a focus on dementia caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association applauds Ms. Carter and her family’s transparency with her diagnosis; it is such a powerful way to educate about medical conditions.”
“They’re coming to the end,” the Carters’ grandson, Jason Carter, said at an event honoring his grandfather last week in Norcross, Ga. “He’s going to be 99 in October, but right now, it’s sort of the perfect way for them to spend these last days together at home in Plains. They’re together, and they’ve been together for 70-plus years.”
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden have “stayed in touch” with the former president’s team, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Tuesday media briefing, to “ensure that their family knows that they are certainly in the president and first lady’s thoughts,” CNN reported.
Dementia is the impaired ability to remember, think and make decisions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These challenges with memory and problem-solving are not a normal part of aging, noted the National Institute on Aging. About one-third of all people aged 85 and older may have some form of dementia, CNN reported.
During her time as first lady, Rosalynn Carter’s platform was mental health advocacy and she traveled the country trying to break the stigma about these issues.
“Since 1971, Rosalynn had been a champion of mental health issues, and her leadership in this cause continues even now,” Jimmy Carter wrote in “White House Diary,” an account of his time as president, CNN reported.
“She mounted a worldwide crusade to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and helped persuade the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control to include mental health on their agendas,” he added.
The Alzheimer’s Association has more on dementia.