Friday, February 23, 2024

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter taking on dementia with presidential grace and mental health mettle

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Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn look on prior to the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays at Turner Field on September 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter, the 95-year-old wife of former president Jimmy Carter, has dementia, the Carter family said May 30, 2023.(AFP)

In a heartfelt announcement, the family of former first lady Rosalynn Carter has revealed that she has been diagnosed with dementia. The 95-year-old Carter, known for her unwavering commitment to mental health advocacy, continues to reside happily at home with her husband, former President Jimmy Carter. Their long-standing dedication to public service has left an indelible mark on American history.

The news comes as a poignant reminder that mental health challenges can affect anyone, regardless of their prominence or achievements. Rosalynn Carter’s lifelong efforts to destigmatize mental illness began long before the establishment of The Carter Center in Atlanta. From her time in the Georgia Governor’s Mansion to her tenure in the White House, she consistently championed improved access to care and worked tirelessly to dismantle the barriers surrounding mental health issues.

In her book “Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers,” published in 1994, Rosalynn Carter empathetically highlighted the struggles faced by caregivers, shedding light on their loneliness, trauma, and suffering. Through national surveys and her own experiences, she offered practical tips to provide caregivers with support and relief, aiming to improve their lives while they care for others.

The enduring bond between Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter is a testament to their commitment to one another and the American people. Their marriage, the longest in presidential history, celebrated its 76th anniversary in 2022. Together, they have built a family spanning four children, twelve grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren.

The Carters’ decision to share this deeply personal news about Rosalynn’s health aims to spark important conversations around the country. By breaking the silence and destigmatizing dementia, they hope to encourage individuals and families to seek the necessary support for this prevalent condition, which affects one in ten older Americans. Stigma has long been a formidable barrier preventing people from seeking help, and the Carters’ disclosure serves as a catalyst for change.

As the founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, Rosalynn frequently reminded others that caregiving touches every person’s life at some point. She astutely observed that 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 eventually need caregivers. The universality of this role is evident in their own family, as they experience both the joys and challenges of the caregiving journey.

In their statement, the family requests understanding and privacy during this time. Their hope is that by sharing their story, important conversations will be initiated at kitchen tables and in doctor’s offices across the nation. The Carters’ unwavering dedication to mental health and caregiving serves as a beacon of inspiration, reminding us all of the significance of empathy, compassion, and support in our own lives.

As the nation rallies around Rosalynn Carter and her family, their courage in confronting dementia head-on will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact, fostering a greater understanding of mental health and bringing us closer to a future where stigma no longer stands in the way of seeking and receiving vital support.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter taking on dementia with presidential grace and mental health mettle

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