6 months in, Grace Place thriving

For me personally, Grace Place ranks equal to being involved in the Good Samaritan Health Clinic. I receive infinitely more than I give. It is a blessing for my soul.”
Jerry Jacob

CULLMAN – Episcopal Church in downtown Cullman is home to Grace Place, a ministry for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss.  Deacon Jerry Jacob, who oversees the program, shared with The Tribune that next week, Grace Place will celebrate six months of “providing spiritual, physical, mental, and social stimulation for adults with mild to moderate memory loss.”

The program meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a current average of seven to eight participants at each session; some come one day a week, and some both days.  Each participant spends the session with a volunteer. Volunteers come from churches throughout Cullman.

Activities include:  

  • morning devotion and prayer
  • chair exercises led by Ann Caretti or Laughter Yoga led by Sandy Speegle
  • a table exercise such as: a trivia quiz, guest presenters, arts, crafts, history bingo, stories, jigsaw puzzles, etc.
  • a hot lunch catered by The Red Door Café
  • a version of “volleyball” with air-inflated balloons, pool noodles and a badminton net
  • more table exercises
  • a volunteer playing classic hymns on the piano

Jacob said, “Guest presenters have included the Senior Dance Troupe from First United Methodist Church Cullman, Tina Cagle Herfurth and her therapy dog Addie, David Poynor and his therapy dog Scarlett, Tyshan Kenney teaching crafts, Taylor Hill from Missouri, a visiting Girl Scout who demonstrated her Taekwondo talents and presented participants and volunteers with yarn bracelets she had made, and Craig Mann who performed with his dulcimer.”

How things are going:

According to Jacob, “Caregivers and family members report that their loved ones thoroughly enjoy coming to Grace Place.  One participant, after missing a session for a doctor’s appointment, told their caregiver that they ‘wanted to get back (to Grace Place) with their friends.’

“A caregiver, after being told that we were glad to be able to give them a break from their routine, responded with ‘it’s not a break, it’s a vacation.’  Another caregiver said her loved one is dressed and ready to go ‘to that church’ by eight in the morning. When this participant first started coming he was barely communicative, seemingly disinterested, and constantly asking when his caregiver was coming to pick him up.  He now smiles a lot, laughs, jokes and is eager to participate.     

“Volunteers are saying this is one of the most rewarding things they have ever done, and it shows by how often they volunteer.

“For me personally, Grace Place ranks equal to being involved in the Good Samaritan Health Clinic.  I receive infinitely more than I give. It is a blessing for my soul.”

Volunteers needed

Grace Place currently meets twice per week; eventually, with enough participants and volunteers, the program will expand to four days per week, with up to 12 participants per session.

In August, Grace Place will host a nationally recognized leader in the field of day programs for people with memory loss, with a session for current and potential volunteers and a separate session for caregivers.  It will be open to the public. As soon as the details are confirmed, Grace Place will begin publicizing the event.

Jacob said, “Volunteers are critical to the success of this program.  They become care partners for the participant and, in effect, for the caregiver.  Volunteers set their own schedule; there are no mandatory number of days per week or month.  We would welcome volunteers for certain tasks who can only give an hour or so for a session. Even those volunteers who may not directly interact with a participant for a whole session are giving the participants the social interaction that is the most beneficial attribute of this program.”

Grace Place meets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays each week at Grace Episcopal Church Parish (fellowship) Hall, 305 Arnold St. NE, Cullman.  Basic requirements are that participants (those with memory-loss) be able to take care of their own bathroom needs, be able to feed themselves and be able to get around on their own, or with a cane, walker or wheelchair.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/305ArnoldStreetNE, email info@graceplacecullman.org or call 256-736-4260.

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