It isn’t easy being a caregiver—especially when you’re caring for big brother—who just happens to be a celebrity. However, that is the role Bernard Walker finds himself in after moving his brother, gold record recording artist, Chuck Jackson into his home. Chuck Jackson rose to fame during the 60’s through hit songs like, Any Day Now.
The brothers did not come of age together. Bernard says that Chuck was always singing from an early age and was very talented and gifted. They were born in Winston-Salem, a decade apart and Chuck left the family home to live with an aunt in South Carolina when Bernard was very young. Chuck eventually graduated from high school and moved to Pittsburgh PA, where he was discovered. “He was hungry and on a mission. He met Burt Bacharach in 1961 and I remember when he called home and said, ‘I got a hit record!’ It was named, I Don’t Want to Cry. Bacharach later introduced him to the song, Any Day Now which became a huge success.
The distance in age and location never weakened the bond between the brothers. “I care about him because of the past that we’ve had, and the relationship we’ve had in terms of being a brother. Sometimes the word brother is misinterpreted because you can have a brother and not be close. But when you have a brother that’s a friend, that cares about you and you know that…well, that means a lot to me,” says Bernard.
Their parents didn’t have money for many extras for Bernard while he was in high school but being the brother of a recording star has its perks. Back in those days, Chuck looked out for Bernard. “He’s always been very generous towards me even though he was famous and made some hit records,” said Bernard. Chuck wanted the best for his younger brother and made sure he had it. “My mom and dad couldn’t afford the clothes that kids were wearing but Chuck always made sure that I had nice clothes. It was big for me back then—being able to expect a package from New York—yeah, that was big. I was grateful for that.”
Receiving gifts weren’t the only things he was able to look forward to. Chuck often sent for Bernard to join him on tour. “I would be backstage with him in his dressing room. It put me in a position to see things and learn things. He gave me a lot of knowledge about business and things of that nature. I’ve always admired the fact that I can say I have a big brother. He’s not an entertainer to me, he’s my big brother.” Bernard loved that his brother always maintained a certain demeanor. He never forgot how he was raised. He was always active in the music business and became the producer of the Apollo theatre in New York and played a role in preserving the theatre when it was almost shut down.
Even as the lights dimmed on Chuck’s career in the entertainment industry, the brothers remained close, speaking by telephone several times per week. Chuck eventually left New York and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. He was living there when Bernard found out about his big brother’s health challenges. “When I found out about his condition it was a shock to me.” Bernard says that his brother is prideful and didn’t want anyone to know about his fading health. “Even though we talked almost every day, I never knew that his condition was the way that it was until he called me one night and said that he’d fallen and had been on the floor for a long time.” He was living alone. Bernard immediately made the trip to Atlanta. “I saw him, and he didn’t look good in terms of his health.” Bernard later learned that his brother had Alzheimer’s and was quickly losing the ability to care for himself. “I realized he needed help and offered for him to come and live with us.” He made the offer before consulting his wife, Linda. “I’m blessed to have a wife as understanding as Linda. It was hard taking this to her because I knew it would interrupt our life together. But instantly she responds, what else are we going to do? She has been there! She cooks for him, bathes him, she changes him. She does all of the caretaking duties.” With Linda on board, the only thing left to do was to convince Chuck to come.
“It wasn’t easy, but he eventually came around.” That’s when Bernard had another realization. “I didn’t have a clue how do deal with the situation of him and his Alzheimer’s.” Although there was never a moment of hesitation about bringing Chuck into their home, Bernard and Linda felt a bit overwhelmed by the new responsibility they had taken on. “For a while my wife and I struggled…with the Alzheimer’s. We struggled with his changing temperament, and the needs. We had to readjust our lives.”
A friend at church recommended they call Senior Services. “I called and immediately they responded. Since that time, I can say that it’s been much easier to make that transition from a “normal” life to becoming a caregiver.” The family receives Home Care services and absolutely love their certified nursing aide, who helps to care for Chuck. They also plan to look into enrolling Chuck at the Elizabeth and Tab Williams Adult Day Center to increase his opportunity for social interaction. “I’m grateful for Senior Services and the leadership and all the help they supplied and the information that they have given me.”
Bernard smiles when he speaks about his brother. It’s easy to hear the admiration he has for Chuck after all these years. He’s also quick to acknowledge how their roles have reversed now that he is looking after his big brother and how that has changed his perspective a bit. “I can admire now more than ever caregivers as a whole—those who reach out to do these types of things. We don’t think about these things until they happen to us. Then we can understand. My prayer is for all caregivers. It takes a special type of individual to take care of people and understand their condition and to be there with them and for them.”
Senior Services is proud to support and partner with Bernard Walker and Chuck Jackson, as well as hundreds of other caregivers and their loved ones to help keep families together. Senior Services is dedicated to helping older adults remain in their homes, living with dignity and aging with purpose.