Chances are that you’ve visited someone in the hospital at some point and brought flowers. They’re beautiful, colourful, and add a touch of nature to an otherwise cold and clinical setting. The latter aspect- the way they represent nature- is a big part of what makes them so healing for the recipient.
Working with plants and flowers has a large impact on the health and quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. Since September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, this blog presents the many ways that gardening can help Alzheimer’s patients feel, and function, better.
Gardens as Therapy
Gardens have been used therapeutically for centuries. Ancient civilizations designed sensory gardens with plants, flowers, and water features, which quickly became popular retreats and places for rejuvenation. Today, studies have shown that post-surgical patients with garden views recover much better than those without, and those living with cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia respond positively to the beauty and stimulation of gardening and plant care.
Why is gardening so beneficial for them? According to The Alzheimer’s Society, “Exercising in the garden helps develop the appetite, boosts energy levels and promotes a better night’s sleep. Maintaining, as far as possible, existing skills that give pleasure and confidence.”
Gardening has been found to benefit dementia patients in the following ways:
- Access to direct sunlight, which improves moods and sleep cycles
- Decreased levels of aggression and agitation
- Fewer feelings of isolation
- Improved social interactions
- Better attention span and cognitive ability
Researchers found that gardening on a daily basis reduced dementia risk factors by 36%.
Designing a Garden for a Loved One With Dementia
When designing a garden for someone living with dementia, make sure that all plants are neither sharp nor toxic. You should also go for a mix of flowers, green plants, and trees with different colours, textures, and leaves. Create visually distinct areas that offer different sensory experiences. Make blunt, simple gardening tools available and don’t use pesticides or herbicides.
To ensure the safety of older dementia patients, walking paths should be quick-drying, well-lit, level, and wide. It’s also a good idea to keep stakes, sprinklers, and wires out of the way. Whenever possible, design a circular or figure-eight path; this promotes walking and makes navigating the garden easier.
Other tips include:
- An enclosed or covered area for viewing the garden during inclement weather
- Water features and even fish ponds if space permits
- Safe, accessible lounge chairs in separate seating areas
- A herb garden that can be harvested and used to make meals
Having a garden can provide a fantastic opportunity to stimulate all of the senses. Soil, flowers, and leaves can all be touched while the sensation of sun or wind on the face arouses feelings of well-being. When combined with the sight of bright flowers and the smell of earth or a freshly-mowed lawn, gardening can be a euphoric experience for those living with dementia.
Need Help Designing a Garden?
Gardens are hugely beneficial, but they can take time to plant and cultivate. If you have a large property and would like to design and develop a healing garden in your backyard, a reputable Hamilton landscaping company can provide the artistic and practical support you need for beautiful results. To learn more or schedule a consultation with the team at Green Collar Landscaping, contact us today.