Faith, hope and music

Musical Alzheimer’s advocates visit Grace Place

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Don Wendorf (on banjo) and Drexel Rayford (on guitar) lead Grace Place participants in a sing-along Tuesday morning. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Grace Place, Grace Episcopal Church’s ministry to persons with dementia and their caregivers, on Tuesday welcomed Dr. Don Wendorf and Dr. Drexel Rayford from Birmingham for a lively interactive program of all kinds of music, spanning the spectrum from “Amazing Grace” to “Shake that Thing!”

Wendorf, a retired psychologist and professional musician, performed on five-string and tenor banjos, plus mandolin and harmonica; Rayford, a chaplain at UAB, played guitar. The team regularly gives this type of performance at locations around Birmingham.

Joining the group was Wendorf’s wife Lynda Everman, founder of the advocacy organization Us Against Alzheimer’s and one of the two people responsible for leading the effort to get the U.S. Post Office to issue an Alzheimer’s stamp. The two have published three books in the field of dementia ministries: “Seasons of Caring,” “Stolen Memories” and “Dementia-Friendly Worship.” Everman and Wendorf presented Alzheimer’s-themed liturgical stoles to Grace Episcopal Church’s Priest Jay Gardner and Deacon Jerry Jacob.

Rayford is Support Team Network manager at UAB, working to create support systems for patients who are discharged from the hospital without adequate at-home support. His goal is “to support this person, so that they don’t have to go back to the hospital, so that they have transportation to follow-up appointments, maybe some nutrition, folks to run errands for them, or somebody just to come by and sit with them, hold their hand and just be with them to cut through the loneliness and social isolation that’s there.”

Rayford pointed out a study showing that people suffering from loneliness and isolation tend to have higher rates of inflammation and weaker immune systems, and are more likely to end up back in the hospital before they can recover. 

Wendorf takes dementia ministry very personally, telling The Tribune, “My mother had Alzheimer’s, my father had Parkinson’s and my late wife had vascular dementia. Then my wife and I, for the last few years here, she took care of her father with vascular dementia, her late husband with Alzheimer’s, for many, many years, and she is a big Alzheimer’s advocate.”

The couple teaches ministers and church staffs how to lead dementia-friendly worship and develop their congregations into dementia-friendly communities.

“That’s a big part of what we do,” said Wendorf. “We hike and we advocate, and play music.”

For more on Us Against Alzheimer’s, visit www.usagainstalzheimers.org.

For more on Cullman’s Grace Place, visit www.facebook.com/305ArnoldStreetNE.

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Grace Episcopal Church Pastor Jay Gardner (center) thanks Lynda Everman and Don Wendorf for the Alzheimer’s-themed stoles presented to him and Deacon Jerry Jacob (left). (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com