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  • Writer's pictureLickety Glitz


Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Dancing the Sundowners away!

If you're in the Portland, Oregon area, you may already be familiar with the adult day services at Marie Smith Center in North Portland, or the Lambert House in SE Portland. Both are run by the Oregon Chapter of the Volunteers of America and offer a full-day of activities and social engagement for functionally and/or cognitively impaired adults. I call that all things dementia good.

But recently Lambert House has taken it up a notch to "Dementia Total Domination" with a new program called Sundance, providing music therapy and a multi-sensory environment for mid to late-stage dementia folks every Tuesday and Thursday, and get this... during peak sundowning hours!

Can you believe there are people in the world trained and willing to take your dementia loved one on during sundowning? I think that'a an official Blaze of Caregiver Glory medal right there!

To get the low-down on the sundown I toured Lambert House and snapped some pics of their dementia digs.

My first sight was a bountiful lush garden behind the facility with a secured entry/exit, yet open and inviting.

An example of the tactile botany that infuses the garden. "Everything's touchable!" Susie boasted.

Susie, the horticultural therapy guru (and Teepa Snow dementia-trained), explained that the garden was designed to include all tactile plants for dementia engagement, as well as edible for cooking therapy; she was planning on a group pesto making session during Sundance that evening.

My tour guide Alison and I meandered through the foliage, snacking on berries as she pointed out various dementia-friendly attributes such as a planter box with a V-shaped underside for easy wheelchair gardening.

Hell on wheels gardening! A planter box accessible for all. Genius.

Inside, Alison proudly showed me the colorful, welcoming, main room, filled with light from the encircling windows. Again, everything in the room is completely accessible to the participants, there is nothing they can't touch, move, carry around; it's an intentional "Yes" atmosphere - as opposed to our household where, try my best, "No" gets said way too often. ("No, Mom, those are the monthly bills." "No, Mom, the last time you took the remote control it was missing for days." "No, Mom, that's the last bottle of wine and I'll be damned if I'm gonna share it!" etcetera, etcetera.)

The main activity room at Sundance where they do music and horticulture therapy. Colorful, bright, and light. An oasis of dementia "Yes!"

It's almost perfect! Just needs beer.

A small, cozy room sits off to the side of the main activity room, specifically designed for those dementia folks who are sundowning hard, and need comforting quiet. It was dreamy and peaceful with a pastoral image slowly rotating on the wall, ever changing and slightly hypnotic. Plus, the sofa rocks! Literally! I tell 'ya, if they'd had a

kegerator and Pink Floyd playing I would have crawled out of the joint sometime the next day.

Sundance operates at Lambert House on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at a cost of $100 per session, but certain programs can help with fees such as VA benefits, Medicaid (not Medicare), and Oregon Project Independence. For more information from a terrific tour guide, contact Sundance's Program Director, Alison Bookman at Lambert House.

I poked around the interwebs to see if there were other sundowner respite options offered elsewhere in the U.S. (and by "poked" I mean fell into a 2-hour googling rabbit hole), but I was unable to find any. A call out to the twitterverse didn't turn up any leads either. If you know of one, please post in the "Comments" below so others may benefit!

If you are not in the PDX area, and would like to have a similar program in your neck of the woods lobby your local VOA chapter, or senior center, or care community to get their plagiarism on and make it happen!

Because every community should be able to Sundance the sundowners away.

P.S. In my failed search for additional sundowning centers, I did find the National Registry of Memory Cafes! If you're unfamiliar with memory cafes, they are monthly get-togethers for dementia folks and their caregivers for socializing and often music and games. "Leave the disease at the door!" is their motto. The doctor who compiled the registry did let me know that she's been too overwhelmed to keep it updated as of late, so please contact the cafes listed in your area before attending to make sure they are still in operation.

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