WASHINGTON — Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has been diagnosed with dementia and "continues to live happily at home with her husband," former President Jimmy Carter, the family said in a statement via the Carter Center on Tuesday.
The announcement comes three months after it was announced that Jimmy Carter had entered home hospice care in Plains, Georgia.
Pointing to Rosalynn's longstanding focus on mental health advocacy, family members said they hoped sharing her diagnosis would encourage conversations on dementia at kitchen tables and doctors' offices alike, countering stigma that could keep people from seeking help.
"As the founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, 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 universality of caregiving is clear in our family, and we are experiencing the joy and the challenges of this journey," the statement said.
The Carter Center did not share specific information about Rosalynn's diagnosis. The organization announced a website set up to leave messages of support for Rosalynn and the Carter family.
Dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think and make decisions, primarily affecting older adults. Causes of dementia vary — the CDC says as many as 80% of cases are caused by Alzheimer's disease, while other forms include vascular dementia and fronto-temporal dementia.
As first lady of Georgia after her husband was elected governor in 1970, Rosalynn went on a statewide tour of mental health facilities and served on the Governor's Commission to Improve Services to the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped.
She was 49 years old when she entered the national stage as her husband ran for president in 1976. She was an active participant in his campaign, traveling independently throughout the country to share her belief that her husband was the best person to lead the nation.
After Jimmy was elected president, Rosalynn redefined the role of First Lady, with a relentless drive to pursue an independent agenda. She went to Cabinet meetings, attended major briefings and served as the “President’s personal emissary to Latin American countries”. She was the first First Lady to keep her own office in the East Wing (and the first to have a VCR in the White House).