The death of Rosalynn Carter, former first lady and wife of President Jimmy Carter, this month offers a reminder to be bold, strive for authenticity and think of others.

Carter, who founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI) in 1987 — and her husband, who remains in hospice — unquestionably were ahead of their times. Consider the initiatives they championed:

Family caregiving: Carter famously said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world — those that have been caregivers, those that are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

For more than 30 years, RCI has supported the unique needs of unpaid caregivers, who number more than 53 million in the United States. It has taken the nation three decades to catch up to her ideas. Just last year, as an example, the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled its first national family caregiver strategy. Increasingly, public policy is recognizing the importance of family caregiving to the healthcare infrastructure. We owe gratitude to Carter for bringing this to the forefront. 

Mental health: Carter also was a major voice on mental health. In 1985 — just imagine how different we regarded mental health back then — she started the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy. Talk about groundbreaking.

Hospice: The major Medicare program that offers people noncurative care would not have been possible without President Carter, who helped to jump-start the hospice program during his presidency. Arguably, Jimmy Carter, currently on hospice for more than six months, stands as a living example of the program’s value.

I have not even mentioned the humanitarian work the couple did throughout the world, including their work to eradicate the guinea worm. The Carters did not live flamboyant or excessive lives. In fact, Jimmy lives and Rosalynn died in the same small Georgia town where they were born. But make a difference in the world? They did this in abundance.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].