(WJW) — The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn said his family is coping with the declining health of the husband and wife. Jimmy entered hospice care in February, and Rosalynn was diagnosed with dementia a few months later.
“My grandparents have always been the entertainers,” Josh Carter told People Magazine. “But now we’re kind of the ones having to entertain. It’s different, it’s just a different era.”
He said family members are spending lots of time at the couple’s home in Plains, Georgia, to keep the Carters company. In recent months, the couple’s four children, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have been a near-constant presence at the compound. Close friends and some extended family also have visited, as the couple seems to defy their age and conditions, even attending the Plains’ Independence Day fireworks display in July.
Jimmy is 98 years old and Rosalynn is 96 years old, and they’ve been together most of their lives.
The former president is still sharp as a tack, his grandson said, even as his wife’s memory deteriorates.
“Odds are I’m gonna lose my grandfather before my grandmother,” Josh told People. “He’s in hospice care and she’s not, and it’s just math.”
In a statement released in May regarding Rosalynn’s diagnosis, the family pointed out the former first lady had long been an advocate for mental health and that they hoped that coming forward with her illness would lessen the stigma surrounding it.
“We hope sharing our family’s news will increase important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor’s offices around the country,” the family said.
Rosalynn celebrated her 96th birthday this week. The family planned a quiet celebration, according to The Carter Center, the human rights organization the pair opened in Atlanta after losing his 1980 reelection bid. She ate cupcakes and peanut butter ice cream, nodding to the couple’s experience as Georgia peanut farmers, which became part of their political branding.
She also released butterflies in the Carters’ garden; her love of butterflies traces back to childhood. Extended family and friends also held butterfly releases around Plains, including at the small public garden next to the home where Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born on Aug. 18, 1927.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.