Islander Cynthia Elliott has dedicated her life to healing and helping others through dance, music, art and massage. In 2010, after developing a slight tremor in her right hand, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“She massaged my legs when I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a 1-year-old. Now it’s my turn to take care of her,” said her son Aaron D’Errico.
Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle movement and coordination.
It was through taking care of Aaron that Elliott’s eyes were open to the healing powers of the human touch. Over the years, she was able to provide relief to many islanders through her knowledge of massage.
The closure of the Life Care Center, Nov. 30, where she received full-time care, left Elliott and her boys, Adam and Aaron, desperate to find a facility in Friday Harbor.
Parkinson’s disease, according to medical dictionaries, is a progressive disorder affecting the nervous system. Parkinsons affects body movement, causing tremors and stiffness, making actions like holding objects difficult. As a result, full-time caregivers are required to help with daily tasks, especially as the disease progresses, and motion becomes increasingly difficult.
The only place they could find immediately for their mother was in Anacortes. After one week off island, her health took a noticeable downturn. Overworked staff were not able to care for her properly and often neglected her needs During this time, Elliott was also isolated from her loved ones, which impacted her emotional well being.
Her former husband Gordon Elliott graciously stepped in and helped move her back to the island to Village at the Harbour. Thanks to the incredible care there, Aaron said, her health has begun to improve. However, Medicaid does not cover the Village, so funds are tight. Adam set up an account for individuals to donate at Islanders Bank called “Health Account for the Benefit of Cynthia Elliott 9796.” All donations will go toward rental assistance at the Village. She needs approximately $2,400 a month. To donate, one can go inside to a teller or through the drive-through.
In keeping with Elliott’s passions, a performing arts fundraising event is scheduled at the Isle Seat Theatre on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1. Times, ticket prices and other information will be announced within the coming weeks.
“It is amazing how readily we all pull together in this community,” Elliott said, adding how blessed she is to have so many friends on the island.
This will be the third charity performance the Isle Seat has done, noted co-founder Lina Downes, and they are excited to give back.
“Cynthia Elliott has been a joy to all of us and is adored by everyone, including myself, so of course we are happy to help,” Downes said.
Elliott moved to Friday Harbor in the early 90s, when her twin boys were in the fifth grade. She immediately began volunteering for various organizations and founded a local marimba band.
“One of my favorite locations [to perform] was the convalescent center [which later became the Life Care Center]. We would play for the seniors and the staff,” Elliott said.
Despite her health issues, she remains hopeful. Elliott’s advice to others with Parkinson’s is to not surrender to the fear.
“It is important not to give up hope, and remember there are new discoveries coming all the time,” she said.
She also added the importance of exercise and being physical, to whatever extent possible, and surrounding yourself with positive people.
“My sons are the most positive people I know,” Elliott said, adding that Aaron, who visits daily, is like her personal assistant. He helps with everything from computer issues to little things like making sure there is always a glass of water by her bed, she said describing a checklist he uses to make sure all her needs are met.
“I admire my mom so much, she is a hero,” Aaron said, explaining all the care she had given him, and to others over the years. “She told me recently I finally understand what you have been through.”
Adam also visits frequently, assisting with banking and other paperwork, as well as just checking in to make sure she is okay.
Elliott herself can also be counted as one of those upbeat individuals.
“She is one of those spirits that when you see her in town, you feel uplifted,” Downes said.
For more information about “Health Account for the Benefit of Cynthia Elliott,” contact Islanders Bank at 360-378-2265 or email Adam D’Errico at firstname.lastname@example.org.