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The Rosalynn Carter Interview (Page 1 of 4)

An Interview with Rosalynn Carter


Gary Barg:  You and I first met in 1996, and Today’s Caregiver magazine had just begun to be published. I know when we were first looking around in 1994 to see who was doing anything to support caregivers, RCI was the only organization that came up over and over again.

Rosalynn Carter:  As far as we know, we were the first. However, there was another organization that started in California; but when they first began, they did just brain diseases for a long time.

Gary Barg:  Why was caregiving so important to you at a time when so few people were aware of the issue?

Rosalynn Carter: I got into it because of my mental health work. I had worked with families who had a mentally ill family member, and I knew how hard it was for the families. So many times those illnesses come on suddenly, and families see the first mental health professional in an emergency room.  The families don’t have any idea of what to do or where to go. When we came home from the White House, our local state university had a small endowment from a mental health program. By the time I decided I could do something with them, it was 1987 and I already had a really good mental health program at the Carter Center. I didn’t want to replicate what we were doing at Georgia Southwestern State University, so we started working with those who were caring for mentally ill family members. The idea quickly spread because in our community, everybody knows everybody and who in the community is a caregiver. Our first session was on burnout, and there were people who were caring for frail-elderly or physically ill family members who wanted to come. Even before our first, big conference, it had expanded to caring for people across the board of need.

Gary Barg:  It’s also hard to pigeon-hole someone as a particular type of caregiver, “Oh, you’re an Alzheimer caregiver,” but that same person may also be dealing with diabetes, or dealing with physical ailments or dealing with cancer.   I think you’re right; once you put out information of importance to caregivers, they’re all going to come.


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