Reaping the benefits of Healing Gardens

Reaping the benefits of Healing Gardens
A 1941 vintage IHC pickup.

The soothing sound of a continuous flow of water from an old-fashioned pump jack.

A two-bottom plow, antique cream cans, old-fashioned mailboxes, a windmill, a front porch similar in design to those found in older farmhouses that still dot the prairie, and several park benches and garden chairs.

These, along with beautiful trees, flowers, shrubbery and a walking path, are all part of the design of the Healing Gardens that will be constructed at the Sanford Vermillion Health Care Center.

The idea for the garden got its start when a resident of the local health care center requested before her death that a portion of her estate be used to develop a garden.

"That has mushroomed into the project that we are looking at today," said Gene Lunn, director of the Dakota Hospital Foundation.

The garden is viewed as a unique way to help stimulate the senses of dementia patients in the care center. But its become apparent that, when completed, its benefits will be far-reaching, touching the lives of young and old alike.

For example, while senior residents sit on park benches, enjoying sunshine and fresh air, they can watch pediatric patients playing on the path, or physical or occupational therapy patients exercising by working in the raised flower beds.

The landscape architecture class at South Dakota State University decided to tackle this unique project. They interviewed staff, management, Foundation board members, and residents.

"For the first half of that semester, they studied dementia, and that was judged up there, and the top three was presented to us," Lunn said. "We picked one of them."

The Dakota Hospital Foundation Board decided to go ahead with the project, and hired Brian Clark and Associates, Sioux Falls, as contractor.

That firm made some changes and developed the final master plan for the garden.

"The garden is going to have trees, it's going to have plantings of all sorts of flowers, and its designed to be a four-season garden, with colorful flowers all year long," Lunn said.

Three sides of the garden will be surrounded by the hospital, care center and demential center wings. A fence will be built to secure the north side of the garden.

"This has been a very exciting project," Lunn said. "Once we decided to go ahead with this, we got the community involved – the medical community, the gardening community, the professionals at the Extension office – everybody became involved in this project and refined it and helped move it along."

Fund raising for the project – with donations from both organizations and individuals – has also been strong throughout the community.

People interested in donating to the garden project may contact Lunn at 638-8463.

"The whole concept of the Healing Garden is to allow a patient or a resident or a visitor a place to go out and relax and stimulate the senses of touch, smell and sight," he said. "It's to help people heal. Studies have proven that this kind of therapy works very well."

Groundbreaking for the project will likely be held sometime in May.

Bids have been let for a portion of the work, which is scheduled to be completed in early July.

The remainder of the work, Lunn said, likely will be finished in August.

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