Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady of the United States and wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has dementia, the Carter Center announced on Tuesday.
“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 announced. Additional details about Carter, 95, were not immediately provided and the Center said it did not expect to comment further.
The Center said that, in sharing news of Carter’s diagnosis, it helped to “increase important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor’s offices around the country.” As first lady, Carter made mental health advocacy her platform and formed a presidential commission on the matter during her time in the White House, a legacy that continues today.
President Carter, 98, began home hospice care in February after a series of short hospital stays.
The Bidens have “stayed in touch” with the former president’s team to “ensure that their family knows that they are certainly in the president and first lady’s thoughts,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a Tuesday press briefing.
At an event in Norcross, Georgia, last week honoring the former president, President Carter’s former UN ambassador, Andrew Young, described the former president to WSB-TV as being in good spirits during a visit with him last month.
“They’re coming to the end,” the Carters’ grandson, Jason Carter, said at the event. “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.”
Rosalynn Carter traveled across the country and the world as first lady in support of breaking mental health stigmas.
“Since 1971, Rosalynn had been a champion of mental health issues, and her leadership in this cause continues even now,” President Carter wrote in “White House Diary,” an annotated account of his time in the White House published in 2010.
Carter continued, “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.”
Dementia is a broad term for an impaired ability to remember, think and make decisions, according to the CDC. People with dementia may have trouble with memory, attention, communication, judgment and problem-solving, and visual perception beyond typical age-related vision changes.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging, according to the National Institute on Aging, but about one-third of all people age 85 and older may have some form of dementia.
This story has been updated with additional background information.