Jimmy Carter's wife Rosalynn enters hospice care

Former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, who has entered hospice care (Scott Cunningham)
Former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, who has entered hospice care (Scott Cunningham)

Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former US president Jimmy Carter, has joined her husband in hospice care at their home in the southern state of Georgia, the family said Friday.

The former first lady, 96, was diagnosed with dementia in May, according to the Carter Center.

She has now "entered hospice care at home. She and President Carter are spending time with each other and their family," their grandson, Jason Carter, said in a brief statement.

He also thanked well-wishers for the "outpouring of love and support."

The family announced in February this year that Jimmy Carter, now 99, entered hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia -- the same modest house he and Rosalynn have lived in since the 1960s.

The one-term Democratic president then surprised many by continuing to welcome visitors, receive news about the Carter Center's humanitarian work, and even enjoy frequent ice cream, according to his family.

The Carters married in 1946 and hold several longevity records in US politics: the longest-wed presidential couple and, for Jimmy Carter, the oldest-living president in US history.

Carter served as a state senator and governor of Georgia in the 1960s and 1970s before being elected in 1976 to the presidency.

He lost his reelection bid to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980.

However, his reputation is widely acknowledged as having grown over the years as both he and Rosalynn worked for human rights, democracy and health issues around the world -- all while maintaining a notably humble public image.

Throughout Jimmy Carter's long political career, his wife was at the heart of the campaigns. Once in the White House, Rosalynn Carter stood out as a first lady intent on being involved in policy.

"She attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, frequently represented the Chief Executive at ceremonial occasions, and served as the President’s personal emissary to Latin American countries," according to the White House website.

Like her husband, Rosalynn Carter has stayed remarkably close to her roots since exiting the political scene.

She was born in the small town of Plains on August 18, 1927, as the first of four children. At 13 her father died and she worked alongside her mother, who became a dressmaker to make ends meet.

She met Jimmy Carter in 1945, while she was in college and he was on leave from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. They married the following year.