Through the eyes of a caregiver, ‘making life the best as it can be

When Ernie Blaylock and his wife Silvia moved back to Dorchester to care for his mom, it was the fulfillment of a vow.

“We promised Dad we would take care of them and the property when the time came.”

That time arrived two years ago when Silvia and Ernie relocated from Oklahoma to Dorchester to care for his mother, Augustine Blaylock, and oversee the property that is his family’s legacy.

The move back to South Carolina came after a stroke caused severe short-term memory loss and landed Augustine in a nursing home. The family soon realized they could care for their mother at home better than the nursing home.

“We’ve been taking care of mom 24/7 for two years,” he said. “And it’s hard.” Ernie is no stranger to caring for others, having taken care of his grandmother in Germany before her death, and working for the Veterans Administration as a fiduciary.

A few months ago, he and Silvia were at the commissary and ran into an acquaintance who told them about The ARK in Summerville. They immediately looked into it.

“She likes coming here. It stimulates her brain, and she’s taken care of. It feels like a family from the time you get into the driveway,” Ernie says. The morning offers social time, games, singing and other activities.

The Blaylock family started their mother at The ARK in July, which offers much more than respite care, such as support education for caregivers on dealing with their loved one’s illness. Mrs. Blaylock attends The ARK twice weekly for up to four hours per day.

“It is comforting to know your family member is at a place that can also offer support education. Most people, like us, want to do the right thing, but just don’t know how. Here at The ARK they have the recipe for what works most of the time. It’s really helped us to know what to say or do,” Ernie says.

Augustine is a strong woman, with a lifetime of experiences including two years she spent underground in Germany during WWII. But, now, some days she looks and around and isn’t sure where she is, whereas others, she is very cognizant, says Silvia.

The ARK started at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church over 20 years ago.

The ARK recently moved into its first permanent home, which had once been the home of the late Mayor Berlin G. Myers and Marlena Myers. A major gifts initiative is underway to pay for the new facility and expanded programming.

“Our move will give The ARK the much-needed space to provide the quality and quantity of service our target population so desperately needs,” says Executive Director and ARK founder Peg Lahmeyer. The property also gives The ARK a more visible presence in the community.

“Now that we have this new place, everything from supplies to monetary donations is important. The funds go right back into the community to support our programs,” says Development Director Megan Severn.

Respite care and caregiver support at The ARK is not free but they work with families to make it all possible. The ARK works with Trident Area Agency on Aging for vouchers to help cover fees while community donations and fundraisers provide scholarships.

“We’re only on this planet for a short time,” says Ernie. “Our goal is to make my mother’s life as good as it can be.”