Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, are still holding hands and making memories together in their Georgia home six months after he entered hospice care there, one of the couple’s grandsons said on Monday.
The former president, 98, is “still very much Jimmy Carter,” his grandson Josh Carter said in a telephone interview. “He’s still opinionated, he’s still strong-willed, he’s still him. And that’s great to see.”
The former president, an avid outdoorsman who now uses a wheelchair, and Mrs. Carter, who uses a walker, try to get outdoors every day around the ranch-style home they built in the 1960s, their grandson said.
After surviving a series of health crises in recent years, including repeated falls and a bout with the skin cancer melanoma, which spread to his liver and brain, Mr. Carter opted to forgo further medical treatment and enter hospice care in February. According to the American Medical Association, hospice care is generally intended to relieve pain and suffering in patients who most likely have six months or less to live.
But Mr. Carter, the longest living president in American history, crossed that threshold on Friday. His family is making plans for his 99th birthday on Oct. 1, and are “surprised and thankful” that it appears they will have the chance to celebrate it, Josh Carter said.
Mrs. Carter marked a milestone of her own on Friday when she turned 96. The Carter Center, which announced in May that she had dementia, said her birthday celebration with loved ones at home included peanut butter ice cream. (Mr. Carter was famously raised on a peanut farm outside Plains, Ga., the town where the couple still live.)
Birthday messages for Mrs. Carter, a longtime advocate for improved mental health care access, came in from public figures including Michelle Obama and Melinda French Gates, and also from longtime Plains residents and business owners.
Mrs. Carter’s dementia has blurred some of her memories, but “when we’re there, she knows that we are family,” her grandson said.
She still enjoys entertaining people in the family home — she’s been resistant to accepting help in the hosting department, her grandson said — and has delighted in watching her great-grandchildren run around the property.
And despite her condition, Mrs. Carter has never forgotten who her husband is. The couple, who have known each other almost since birth and have been married 77 years, are “still holding hands,” Josh Carter said. “They still sit on the couch together, in the same place they’ve always sat.”
His grandparents have done “everything in the human experience” together, and seeing them in the closing chapter of their lives has been bittersweet, Josh Carter added. But they are doing as well as one can expect for their ages, he said.
“They still have a house full of love, and a house full of family,” he said. “And that’s how they wanted it to be.”