Jacki Davidson & Elaine Gantt
A Friendship Forged From Facing Adversity
Bob Davidson, a pilot and aeronautical engineer, courted his
wife Jacki, the former director of the Palmetto Chapter of the
American Red Cross, by flying her to places like Jekyll Island
where they would then share a picnic. Theresa Gantt, a Beaufort
county educator, recently honored as the oldest graduate (she's 93) in
attendance at the Robert Smalls' Association reunion, instilled a love and
respect for education in her three children. Theresa's daughter, Elaine
Gantt, says that her mother was a great role-model who contributed to
her investing 35 years in a career in special education, serving in various
leadership positions, in Washington, D.C.
Today, both Jacki and Elaine have retired from their jobs, and come
"home" to Beaufort to care for Bob and Theresa who are battling the
progression of Alzheimer's disease.
The women's friendship was facilitated by their involvement with
Alzheimer's Family Services of Greater Beaufort (AFSGB), and was
forged by the challenges, heartaches, and unexpected joys that they share
as their loved ones' caregivers.
Both women credit the organization's caregivers' support groups
and the social day program, which Bob and Theresa regularly attend,
with enabling them to handle the ever-changing challenges of life with
Alzheimer's, the most common type of dementia.
"When Bob was first diagnosed, I re-prioritized my life because I
thought I knew what was in store," explained Jacki. "I found out that
I really had no idea: I don't know what I would have done without the
services and support that AFSGB provides." Elaine agrees. "It was really
hard when I first came back to take care of mom," she explains. "I had
left a very independent, self-determined, capable woman. Now our roles
are definitely reversed."
"Overwhelming" is the word both women use to describe the
magnitude of their situations. "For the first couple of months I didn't
think that I could do it," admits Elaine. "I was overwhelmed, I just cried."
Jacki added "Unless you're walking in these kinds of shoes, you really
don't know what it's like."
Jacki and Elaine's advice to others facing caring for a loved one
diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or any type of dementia, is to know that
you're not alone. "You have no idea how important it is to interact with
other people in this situation," explained Jacki. "It's a journey that you
don't want to take by yourself."
Indeed, armed with the support, resources and information that
AFSGB provides, both of these upbeat women feel more confident
in facing each day and the future in general. Trusted respite workers,
who come into the home, and the organization's social day program,
held at various area churches, that provides activities, socialization
and special music programs for loved ones, allow both women to
carry on with aspects of their lives which are necessary to their own
health and well-being.
With the security of knowing that Bob is well cared for and enjoying
his day out with friends, Jacki, an avid fox hunter, is free to go to the
barn and ride her horse, McKenzie. Elaine hits the YMCA for a water
aerobics class and coffee with friends afterwards. It's these types of
activities that allow the women to pursue their passions, and care for
themselves, enabling them to better care for their loved ones.
Both Jacki and Elaine have learned to take life one day at a time,
enjoying the simple pleasures each day brings. Sometimes looking
through Jacki's lovingly-crafted scrapbooks will trigger a memory for
Bob, and they can chat about it. Elaine enjoys playing games, singing
songs, and praying with her mother. Both women have no regrets. "I
believe that God is in the midst of everything," Elaine explains. "Mom
has an excellent quality of life because she's still teaching us. I see the
great-grand kids watching me: seeing the respect I have for mom, and
how I care for her. They're learning."
"I enjoy every minute that I have with Bob," smiled Jacki.
"Although they're getting fewer and fewer, when the old Bob shines
through, it's wonderful."
Alzheimer's Family Services of Greater Beaufort Arlene Hull,
Executive Director (843) 521-9190 www.afsgb.org
Alzheimer's Respite and Resource of Hilton Head Island Edwina M.
Hoyle, Executive Director (843) 842-6688. www.alzheimersrr.org
Alzheimer's Respite & Resource 11th Annual Art Gala
Thursday, September 24, 2009 6:00-8:00 P.M. All Saints
See the Community Calendar on pg. 83 for more information.