Rosalynn Carter: Here's how to leave messages of support for former first lady after dementia diagnosis

Thoughts and prayers have come from around the world for former first lady Rosalynn Carter after her family announced that she had been diagnosed with dementia.

Carter, now 95, remains at home with former President Jimmy Carter, 98, who has been at home receiving hospice care since early this year.

"She continues to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones," the family said via The Carter Center, the global humanitarian organization the couple founded in 1982.

The Carter Center has set up a board online where visitors can leave photos, memories, and messages of support for the Carters here. Since then, people from Atlanta, Georgia, and beyond have shared their love.

Mrs. Carter has championed a number of causes, but is perhaps best known as a pioneer for mental health advocacy. She worked for the passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 and has continued the advocacy work through The Carter Center in Atlanta. 

"Mrs. Carter has been the nation’s leading mental health advocate for much of her life. First in the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, then in the White House, and later at The Carter Center, she urged improved access to care and decreased stigma about issues surrounding mental health," a statement from The Carter Center reads in part.

The Carters have been visiting only with family and close friends since the former president’s announcement in February that he would forgo further medical intervention after a series of short hospital stays.

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter attend church on Easter Sunday at Maranatha Baptist Church on April 20, 2014 in Plains, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images)

The family has not disclosed any specific diagnosis for either the former president or the former first lady. The statement Tuesday said the Carter family would have no further comment.


Married nearly 77 years, the Carters are the longest-married first couple in U.S. history.

The Carters often described themselves as "full partners" throughout his political career and their long public life that followed. Rosalynn Carter campaigned vigorously for her husband in his bids for Georgia governor and the presidency. She used her platform to prioritize mental health awareness, working to address the stigma attached to the condition.

After their White House years, Rosalynn Carter continued her mental health advocacy at The Carter Center, and she traveled extensively with her husband as part of their work promoting democracy globally and fighting disease in the developing world.

One in 10 older Americans have dementia, the family’s statement said. "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."

Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in Plains on Aug. 18, 1927. Jimmy Carter’s mother, a nurse, delivered her in the Smith family home. Lillian Carter brought her young son back a few days later to visit, allowing the future president and first lady to meet as preschooler and newborn.

They were married July 7, 1946.

Jimmy Carter enjoyed telling everyone that his wife was "more political" than he was, a point she did not protest.

"I would be out there campaigning right now if Jimmy would run again," she wrote just a few years after his defeat. "I miss the world of politics."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.