The First Ladies of Caregiving

Former First Ladies Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, and Rosalynn Carter have helped care for our nation and have all been caregivers for family members. Their experience and understanding in their roles as caregivers has helped make them all passionate advocates for our nation’s 65 million caregivers. 

Hillary Clinton
In an interview from Hillary Clinton’s campaign days for the Democratic presidential nomination, she credited her mother with giving her the tools and toughness to enter politics.  In the end, her mother (who Hillary Clinton helped care for until she passed away in 2011) had also given her daughter the experience to be a compassionate caregiver and and advocate for caregiving legislation.

Among Hillary Clinton’s legislative efforts, she advocated for the need for respite care for caregivers. When she was a senator, she co-sponsored and championed a bill that became the law entitled the “Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006 (HR 2348).”  The law acknowledged the millions of Americans caring for a loved one in the home by authorizing $289 million over five years for state grants to help families access quality, affordable respite care.

Nancy Reagan



In Ronald Reagan’s public announcement about his Alzheimer’s, he acknowledged how difficult caring for him would be on his wife, Nancy.  While Nancy had the resources to care for her husband in ways most Americans do not, Ronald Reagan was correct in that the emotional toll it took couldn’t be ignored. 


Since President Reagan’s passing, Nancy has become a passionate advocate for Alzheimer’s disease awareness and education and especially advocating for the research around embryonic stem cells that could hopefully lead to a cure.  She described at a fundraiser for stem cell research that “her husband was in a distant place where she could no longer reach him.” But she added that “she is determined to do whatever she can to save other families from the pain hers has suffered.”

Nancy Reagan’s efforts have included lobbying Congress to get legislation passed to expand stem cell research. She also speaks publicly about her personal caregiving journey and the need to recognize caregivers as a crucial part of the care team around a loved one.

Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter is long recognized as one of the pioneers of the caregiving movement. In her book, “Helping Yourself Help Others – A Book for Caregivers,” she writes, “We can learn to approach caregiving as a blessing as well as a challenging task.” She is also known for the famous quote, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Rosalynn Carter was only 12 years old when her father was diagnosed with terminal leukemia.  As the eldest daughter, she helped care for him and supported her mother by also caring for her younger siblings.  She took up caregiving again for several relatives with cancer after she left the White House and most recently was caregiver for her mother who died in 2000 at age 94.

A long-time devoted and determined advocate for those Americans with mental health issues, Rosalynn Carter is also behind the founding of the Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) for Caregiving in Americus, Georgia. The mission of the RCI is to establish local, state, and national partnerships with organizations focused on quality, long-term home and community based services to help caregivers.  The RCI activities include a variety of advocacy, academic, and awards and scholarship programs.

Laura Bush

While campaigning with her husband George Bush when he was running for governor of Texas, Laura Bush helped care for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. During that time, she wrote an essay about that struggles of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, entitled, “The Sad Goodbye,” which was published in the Shriver Report on Alzheimer’s.


Laura Bush stepped in again to care for her mother, Jenna Welch, who was diagnosed with and survived breast cancer when she was 78.  Laura’s support of Susan G. Komen for the Cause and her activism on behalf of women’s risk of heart disease has led her to play a leading role in women’s and caregiver health issues. She is also an ambassador for The Heart Truth campaign created by the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and established The Laura Bush Institute for Women’s Health to advocate for research, education, and outreach for women and caregivers.

At the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we applaud these former first ladies on their education and advocacy efforts for caregivers. We recognize that caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people, and if you’re a caregiver, you need to take steps to preserve your own health and well-being.  Part of taking care of yourself is planning for your future and for your loved ones. Please call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.
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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.