Horticultural TherapyHorticultural Therapy

Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenging, often isolating road, filled with many ups and downs. However, recent studies show that by employing certain Montessori Method techniques – that is, engaging a person’s senses in learning – can be very beneficial to dementia patients. Gardening, also known as therapeutic horticulture, is a particular sensory-filled activity that offers the perfect chance to get out of the house, take on a project together, and socialize in the great outdoors.

The benefits of therapeutic horticulture

Gardening with a dementia patient does not have to be overly complicated to be beneficial and enjoyable to all involved. Your garden can be simple to start, but the key is to keep it light-hearted and fun. Be sure to monitor your loved one’s reaction and mood to ensure they are enjoying the activity. Consider starting out slow, and then building to a more regular routine, especially during the cooler hours of the day.

The benefits of therapeutic gardening for dementia patients are numerous. For example, the simple act of caring for a garden can be a powerful connection to your loved one’s past, possibly bringing back long-buried happy memories. Successfully caring for and watching the plants grow can give your loved one a new sense of accomplishment and success, especially if he or she gets to enjoy fruit or vegetables that they have grown themselves.

Growing seasonal plants that change with the season can help connect the patient to a place in time, and the regular routine of working in the garden can offer a sense of purpose while helping maintain existing skills. Finally, fresh air and activity can help him or her get more Vitamin D, keep joints and muscles moving and healthy, and also promote a better night’s sleep at the end of the day.

Get started with therapeutic gardening today!

There are simple but helpful modifications to consider when starting on or working in your garden with your loved one. For example:

  • Consider formatting your garden in a figure-eight shape, since maze-like or dead-end gardens can be confusing or frustrating to a dementia patient.

  • Research and utilize items that can make gardening more comfortable and accessible, like raised beds or rolling garden seats.

  • Ensure that your loved one stays safe in the warmer weather by gardening earlier in the day, utilizing hats and sunscreen, and offering plenty of hydration.

  • Keep safety in mind by ensuring that all plants are non-toxic and that sharp tools are not easily accessible to patients with advanced dementia.

  • Ensure that walkways non-slip and glare-free, and that railings are added where needed. You may consider pictures or signs to help your loved one navigate the garden. Consider including a shaded area to sit and enjoy the garden.

  • If you live in an area with limited nice weather, consider creating a small indoor garden; it’s a great start to building a healthy hobby, not to mention a way to lift spirits with beautiful color, even on gray days. There are indoor garden options on the market that also include “grow lights” to mimic the benefits of natural sunlight for the plants.

  • Ensure that the garden is safe for patients who may wander, but also consider that high fences may cause a sense of anxiety or being closed in. The ideal garden creates a sense of sanctuary for your loved one, while also offering stimulation and plenty of activity.

With a bit of thoughtful planning, you may be very pleasantly surprised at how your loved one responds to time in a therapeutic garden. Enjoy it together to create a new tradition that can be shared with your entire family. With April being National Garden Month, it’s a perfect time to start!


Attention Senior Living Communities!

In honor of National Garden Month, we are having a Garden Photo Contest on our Facebook page! Show off your resident’s community garden for your chance to win $100 worth of flowers for your garden! Click here to enter: http://woobox.com/38ai4j

 

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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