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'It's not an end-of-life moment' | Rosalynn Carter's public announcement of dementia diagnosis another example of her advocacy

With word of her diagnosis, Rosalynn Carter’s light is shining brighter than ever.

PLAINS, Ga. — Words of comfort and support are pouring in from around the world for former first lady Rosalynn Carter Tuesday.

Her family, through The Carter Center in Atlanta, announced her dementia diagnosis. In a statement, officials with the center said she is at home in Plains, Georgia visiting with loved ones along with former President Jimmy Carter, who is in hospice care at their home.

With word of her diagnosis, Rosalynn Carter’s light is shining brighter than ever.

She has become one of the nation’s leading advocates for improving mental health care and improving the support that patients and families need, highlighting the laborious and loving work of caregivers.

It is the same support that she and her family are needing now.

MORE COVERAGE: Here's how to leave messages of support for former first lady Rosalynn Carter and the Carter family

Her dementia disclosed by her family is simply one more opportunity for her to get the word out as she’s been doing most of her adult life, according to those who have worked with her through the years, who describe her announcement as brave -- another way for her to shine her light to remove the stigma of mental illness, including dementia.

“I think everybody is ready to change how we think about stigma and discrimination and how we talk about it and how we work to overcome it," the former first lady said in 2012 at her annual mental health conference at The Carter Center.

Her work is what built her brand beyond the title of first lady.

“Mrs. Carter was always known as the first lady of mental health," Paige Alexander, the CEO of The Carter Center said Tuesday.

Alexander is not surprised that Mrs. Carter wanted her diagnosis made public.

It's one more way, according to Alexander, for her to advocate for care for patients and their families and to educate the world about dementia.

“It's not an end-of-life moment for people. It is an opportunity for people to recognize that there is another stage," Alexander said. "And this is part of what she wanted to make sure people knew, to reach out, to have the conversations, and to get the help they need.”

The Alzheimer’s Association in Georgia, pointing out that Alzheimer's is one form of dementia, said that because of Rosalynn Carter’s leadership, there are now resources for patients and their caregivers that didn’t exist when she began her work in the early 1970s.

Leslie Holland with the association said millions of people are in Carter's debt due to the resources she made available.

“The same resources that they (the Carter family) will be utilizing are available to everyone," Holland said. “Some of the reason that those resources are available is because people like Mrs. Carter and the Carter family have brought them to the mainstream and brought them to light.”

It is a light that, because of Rosalynn Carter, is shining brighter than ever.

The Alzheimer's Association provides a 24-hour support line for dementia patients, families and caregivers: 1-800-272-3900. 


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