The only living former first lady who is also a mother to a former president is reportedly very ill. On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Bush family said in a statement that Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and does not plan to seek any additional medical care. Spokesman Jim McGrath said:
It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.
The statement also referenced a "recent series of hospitalizations," and said that Bush, who is 92 years old, has decided to "focus on comfort care" rather than undergoing any further medical treatments. The precise type of illness Bush is currently suffering from is unclear, though she has long been known to have Graves' disease, a thyroid condition. She also reportedly suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, according to CNN. Bush has reportedly been on oxygen, and she was most recently in the hospital over Easter weekend, CNN reported. She was reportedly being treated for shortness of breath.
Comfort care, also known as hospice care, is a form of treatment offered to patients understood to be approaching the end of their lives. It focuses primarily on relieving pain and discomfort.
Bush has been associated with the Executive Branch of the government three different times. The first time was when her husband, George H.W. Bush served as Vice President to Ronald Reagan, between 1981-1989, when she served as the second lady of the United States. Immediately afterward, she was the first lady of the United States between 1989 and 1993, while her husband, George H. W. Bush, was president.
Her connection to the White House was not yet over, however. Her son, George W. Bush became president in 2001, and though that didn’t bring her directly to Washington, she did join ranks with Abigail Adams as the only former first lady to ever marry and give birth to a president. (Abigail was married to John Adams, the second president, and the mother to John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.)
Bush is known for her work to expand literacy across the United States. Specifically, while first lady, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which sought to expand reading skills not just among children, but also among their parents. Bush believed that expanding access to both read and writing would level the playing field for access to the American dream.
In a video promoting the foundation’s work, Bush reflected on the impact that reading had on her life, noting that her father worked in publishing, and that she grew up being read to by her parents. Reading to her own children, she said, also led to her son Neil’s dyslexia diagnosis, which she said was largely an unknown condition at the time.
Bush’s husband, George H.W., is 93 years old and was also in the news in recent years for a series of health-related concerns. At least four times since 2012, he received care for a several different breathing-related issues. Most recently, in August of 2017, he was hospitalized for pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. He also received pneumonia treatment earlier that year, in January. He is known to also suffer from vascular parkinsonism, a disease which presents similarly to Parkinson's disease.
The Bushes have been married for 73 years, making them the longest-married presidential couple on record. They met in Andover, Massachusetts, when they were teenagers, and married when they were 19 and 20 years old. Although the specifics of Bush's health situation are not clear, she is a undoubtedly a woman who has left her mark on modern American history.