Former US President Jimmy Carter, who is the longest-living president in American history at 98 years old, has announced that he will be entering hospice care at his home in Georgia. The Carter Center made the announcement on Saturday, stating that Carter had decided to forgo further medical treatment and spend his remaining time at home with his family. He has the full support of his medical team and family.
Carter’s recent hospital visits were not elaborated on, but he has survived numerous health crises in recent years, including a battle with melanoma skin cancer that spread to his liver and brain, as well as repeated falls. Despite defying illness and death for years, he has slowly retreated from public life lately, making fewer appearances and statements. He was unable to attend President Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 but was visited by Biden in April of the same year, becoming the first sitting president to visit him at his Georgia home.
The former president lives with his wife, Rosalynn Carter, in a modest ranch house that the couple built in Plains, Ga., in 1961. Hospice care is defined as care for terminally ill patients when the priority is not to provide further treatment but to reduce pain and discomfort toward the end of life. The Carter family has asked for privacy during this time and expressed gratitude for the concern shown by his many admirers.
Carter was a political sensation in his day, a new-generation Democrat who, after a single term as governor of Georgia, shocked the political world by capturing his party’s presidential nomination in 1976, then defeating the incumbent Republican president, Gerald R. Ford, in the fall. During his four years in office, he sought to restore trust in government following the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, introducing reforms that were meant to transform politics. He negotiated the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, an agreement that remains the foundation of Middle East relations.
But a sour economy and the 444-day hostage crisis in Iran, in which 52 American diplomats were held captive, undercut his public support, and he lost his bid for re-election to former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California in 1980. After his presidency, Carter spent his time on a series of philanthropic causes around the world, such as building houses for the poor, combating Guinea worm, promoting human rights in places of repression, monitoring elections, and seeking to end conflicts. His work as a former president came to eclipse his time in the White House, eventually earning him the Nobel Peace Prize and rehabilitating his image in the eyes of many Americans.
In one of his last public acts, Carter filed a brief last year supporting an appeal by conservation groups seeking to overturn a court decision permitting a gravel road to be built through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. He argued that the construction would undercut the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which he had signed into law. He was said to be working on that issue as recently as last month.
Despite his age and health concerns, Carter has continued to lead an active life, even teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, as promised, after his melanoma spread to his brain in 2015. Within months, he announced that he was cancer-free. In 2019, he fell at least three times, breaking a hip at one point and requiring 14 stitches at another, but he bounced back each time, even showing up for a Habitat for Humanity home-building project shortly after one fall.
Carter’s decision to enter hospice care is a sad but understandable one, given his age and health issues. His contributions to American and global politics are significant and will be remembered long after his passing.